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Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future

“Residential schools are a tragic part of Canada’s history. But they cannot simply be consigned to history. The legacy from the schools and the political and legal policies and mechanisms surrounding their history continue to this day. This is reflected in the significant educational, income, health, and social disparities between Aboriginal people and other Canadians. It is reflected in the intense racism some people harbour against Aboriginal people and in the systemic and other forms of discrimination Aboriginal people regularly experience in this country. It is reflected too in the critically endangered status of most Aboriginal languages.” (p. 135)

After six years of study, and hearing from more than 6,000 witnesses, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its findings with 94 calls to action aimed at building Indigenous culture and self-determination, and reconciliation between Canadian governments and Aboriginal societies. 

The summary includes a well-informed account of what happened to Indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools, where an estimated 3,200 children died from diseases resulting from poor living conditions.

The calls to action urge all levels of government—federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal—to work together to repair the harm caused by residential schools (legacy recommendations 1 to 42) and move forward (reconciliation recommendations 43 to 94).

Some key recommendations in the area of health are:

  • Acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies. Recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties (all governments).
  • Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field, ensure retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities and provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals.
  • Provide sustainable funding for new and existing Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools. Ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
  • Recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

Use this resource to:

  • Deepen your understanding of the impact of the residential school legacy on Indigenous people today
  • Develop your organization’s response to the TRC calls to action
  • Choose one or more calls to action that you can commit to contributing to, either personally or organizationally


Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canada : McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Related resources: 

Tags: Cultural Safety, Indigenous health, Racism/racialization