The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools is a novel foray into a genre previously associated with so-called “transitional” democracies from the post-Communist world and the global South. This basic fact notwithstanding, a systematic comparison with the broader universe of truth commission-hosting countries reveals that the circumstances surrounding the Canadian TRC are not entirely novel. This article develops this argument by distilling from the transitional justice literature several bases of comparison designed to explain how a truth commission’s capacity to promote new cultures of justice and accountability in the wake of massive violations of human rights is affected by the socio-political context in which the commission occurs; the injustices it is asked to investigate; and the nature of its mandate. It concludes that these factors, compounded by considerations unique to the Canadian context, all militate against success. If Canadian citizens and policymakers fail to meet this profound ethical challenge, they will find themselves occupying the transition-wrecking role played more familiarly by the recalcitrant and unreformed military and security forces in the world’s more evidently authoritarian states.
DISCLAIMER: The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Copyright © 2021 EUCAnet Europe Canada Network. All Rights Reserved.
Get In Touch
Centre for Global Studies
PO Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V2W 3P5 Canada
(250) 721 7490