True reconciliation must reflect shared values, says former PM

Former prime minister Joe Clark urged the new Liberal government to set up a national council of reconciliation at an event hosted by Cathedral Arts, a program of the diocese of Ottawa. Photo: Art Babych

If there is to be true reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous  Canadians, it must “reflect and combine significant values from each side,”  says former prime minister Joe Clark, who is an honorary witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.

Many non-indigenous Canadians have a “folkloric view of Indigenous people,”  he told the 130 dinner guests in the Great Hall of Christ Church Anglican  Cathedral in Ottawa November 4. It’s a view that “stigmatizes the values of  Indigenous peoples as being just part of the past, not really relevant to  the so-called modern world and certainly not a factor in the future,” he  said.

There is a growing body of proof that “this backward-looking caricature is  false, but that is not evident to many non-Indigenous Canadians of inherent  generosity and goodwill,” he said.

Advocacy and public relations alone won’t persuade those Canadians who  “through no ill intent, cling to the caricature,” said Clark. “They need to  see for themselves that some Aboriginal values are central to their own  well-being and to their future.”

Clark, in his talk entitled “Beyond Reconciliation: A new partnership with  the Indigenous Peoples of Canada,” also called for a national council of  reconciliation to be set up by the new Liberal government.

Now is a rare opportunity “to build that kind of strong, practical inclusive  partnership which will let us move forward together,” he said.

“This a moment in time where, if we displayed the generosity of spirit that  [Nelson] Mandela and [F.W.] de Klerk showed when they drew their nation  [South Africa] back from the abyss, and displayed the inclusive vision…we  can do it.”

Clark was speaking as a director of Canadians for a New Partnership (CFNP), which, according to its website, is working toward “a better, stronger Canada” that builds “a new partnership between First Peoples and all Canadians.”

Stephen Kakfwi, a former premier of the Northwest Territories, and president  of the NWT Dene Nation, first advanced the concept for Canadians for a New  Partnership.

Following his talk, Clark fielded questions from members of the audience,  touching briefly on the Liberals’ election campaign. “There’s no way in the  world that they could have anticipated, prior to the campaign, all of the  changes that they want to take account of now,” he said. “And I think they  would welcome constructive suggestions” on how to move forward on building a  new partnership between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples.

Hosted by Cathedral Arts, a diocese of Ottawa program that holds  benefit concerts and hosts a guest lecturer series, the event included a  traditional Algonquin buffet prepared by an Aboriginal catering service.

The former prime minister was accompanied to the event by his wife, author  and lawyer Maureen McTeer. It was noted in his introduction that Clark  remains the youngest person to become prime minister of Canada, taking  office the day before his 40th birthday. The new prime minister, Justin  Trudeau, is 43.


Anglican Journal News, November 05, 2015

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