On June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 recommendations after years of hearings and testimony from thousands of residential school survivors and several other key stakeholders.
Among those recommendations are a set related to citizenship and immigration (emphasis added):
Newcomers to Canada
93. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and history of residential schools.
94. We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.
These changes, to me, are important beyond just a symbolic gesture of apology for past wrongdoing. From the Canadian history textbooks I grew up reading to today’s oath and exam materials, none has truthfully and honestly reflected the complex, diverse, rich, important, and at times very tragic history of our Aboriginal peoples.
For myself personally, I could not care less if a new citizen does not know the full name of our Prime Minister. Prime Ministers come and go. However, for a new citizen not to know of the events surrounding Residential Schools or know of at least the names of two Aboriginal bands in Canada, is inexcusable. Its a critical omission that will affect their future human interactions with Aboriginal peoples and thus our own Canadian identity.
As we welcome in new Canadians, it only seems right we reflect on and pay homage to the first Canadians. Our Aboriginal Peoples. Our brothers and sisters. Our forefathers.
I hope Minister Alexander or whoever becomes Minister of Citizenship and Immigration post-election, makes implementing this uncontroversial change, an early priority.