Questions raised over oil giants donating to reconciliation groups
A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School, Red Deer, Alberta, ca. 1914 or 1919. (United Church of Canada archives)
As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prepares for residential school abuse hearings in Vancouver this week, some are criticizing donations from oil sands pipeline firms facing opposition from aboriginal communities.
A week of events surrounding the hearings kicks off Monday, ahead of testimony Sept. 18-21 from some of the roughly 150,000 survivors of the schools.
“We want to bring all people together, so we can signify our willingness to walk forward and create a better future for all of us ... to uplift the survivors of the residential schools who are going to be sharing their stories (and) let them know they're not alone, that Canada cares,” said Karen Joseph, executive director of Reconciliation Canada. “It's an extremely traumatic process.”
But Squamish Nation activist Khelsilem Rivers criticized donations from Kinder Morgan to the commission and TransCanada to Reconciliation Canada. He wants the money returned.
“There's a real contradiction,” Rivers said. “What kind of reconciliation is being promoted, if these types of companies – that are currently attempting to destroy what (aboriginal) people are fighting to protect – are partnering with them? It makes it very difficult for community members to participate in a meaningful way.”
Joseph estimated that TransCanada donated “less than 5%” of her budget, with “absolutely no strings attached.” She said the pipeline giant pledged to attend dialogue workshops and develop an “action plan” on reconciliation with First Nations.
The week of events culminates with the Reconciliation Walk on Sept. 22.