Truth, Reconciliation and Settler Denial: Specifying the Canada–South Africa Analogy

Human Rights Review 13 (3):349-367 (2012)
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Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is tasked with facing the hundred-year history of Indian Residential Schools. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is frequently invoked in relation to the Canadian TRC, perhaps because this is one of the few TRCs worldwide that Canadians know. Whilst the South African TRC is mainly applauded as an international success, I argue that loose analogizing is often more emotive than concise. Whilst much indeed can be drawn from the South African experience, it is important to specify the Canada–South Africa analogy. In this article, I do so by focussing on the institutional approach to truth and how this relates to issues of settler/White denial. The South African experience teaches that narrow approaches to truth collude with superficial views of reconciliation that deny continuities of violence. Consequently, I argue that Indigenous–settler reconciliation requires a broad truth that locates residential schools on a continuum of violence, linking extraordinary abuses with structural injustices and historic colonization with lived relationships



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