When opening space for reconciliation, it can be helpful to think about what
led to the need for reconciliation, what is the reconciliation for,
is it inviting to reconcile? TRCs are often launched by the government, one that can be newly-formed after a period of violence, as is often the case, or a long-standing government like Canada's that has had a complex history with the groups in question. Questioning what these actors stand to gain from a TRC, and how they may push their own agendas within their framework, may prove necessary.
That's not to say that parties associated with repression, violence or genocide cannot themselves be part of the process. The question of whose
grief is being addressed is huge, as there are griefs on both sides. Both oppressor and oppressed can both experience grief, for different reasons, and there can be ways to address all sides. This forms another intersection of identity: depending on how you identify, your experience of mourning may be legitimized or delegitimized within certain contexts.
This leads to an interesting question of whether to rank different experiences of grief, and how. In one approach, the grief of victims often takes pride of place in processes like the TRC. In another, the question of ranking griefs is out of the question – it's like applying a metrestick to a process that defies linear measurement. Grief, when subjectively experienced, doesn't welcome comparison. It may, however, welcome accompaniment.
Another factor the presenters draw attention to is embodiment. Grief can be a physical process, and often shows up in the body. The residential school system wasn't only a cultural shock, in many cases it was a physical one that involved corporal punishment, disease and death. It taught Indigenous youth to hold themselves a certain way, or to relate to their bodies or the land differently than they would have otherwise have been taught.
When grief shows up in the body, it needs to be addressed with more than abstract, intellectual exercises. The way that a TRC is physically structured can facilitate this – does the setup of a room welcome physical response? Are testimony givers placed on pedestals, like on a trial, or incorporated into a circle? Do the physical structures speak to Indigenous or settler culture?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2008 apology for the residential school system has been deemed by some to have been delivered detachedly, as if it were a matter of policy rather than grief, identity and loss. This has led to much discussion over the extent to which later generations are expected to embody grief and repentance, and what the implications of those are.
There are too many nuances to explore in such a short period of time, but the presenters recommend Naomi Angel's article "Before Truth: The Labors of Testimony and the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission
" for those interested in learning more.