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National Day for Truth & Reconciliation

With Each Truth There is a Time to Reconcile

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Tabatha Bull, President and CEO, CCAB

Tabatha Bull

President & CEO, CCAB

As an Anishnawbe Kwe from Nipissing First Nation, I celebrate Truth and Reconciliation Day and recognize it as an important opportunity for discussion. It is a time for all of us to think, reflect, and gather our thoughts and feelings, with intention, while keeping our hearts and conversations open about the continuing and aftereffects of Indigenous oppression throughout Canada.

Indigenous peoples have experienced generations of oppression but remain resilient. Our history is filled with many examples but the confirmation of Indigenous children who passed without ceremony and who were unaccounted for is a poignant example of the dreadful experiences Indigenous children faced at former residential schools across the county.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the survivors and their families who showed incredible courage in telling their stories as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is unfortunate that it took the confirmation of remains of mass Indigenous children’s graves, 16 years after the completion of the work of the Commission, to capture the country’s attention.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Report’s (2015) definition of reconciliation, it is “about establishing and maintaining a mutually and respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. For that to happen, there must be awareness of the past, and acknowledgement of the harm that was inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.” With each truth there is a time to reconcile, then to learn and accept another truth, and reconcile. It is a continuous journey that is multifaceted. A journey that can change behaviour by honouring treaties, respecting Indigenous culture, acknowledging rights and title, eradicating false negative perceptions and stereotypes, learning about Indigenous history, and building relationships.

One of our greatest means to learn and change behaviour is through national media. News of the missing children and grave sites at residential schools across the country garnered national exposure and that helped a great deal to bring attention to Canada’s history with Indigenous people. However, still today national media provides platforms to writers that deny the truth about Indigenous people experiences, specifically those of people at Canada’s former residential schools. Some go as far to call the courageous stories fabricated and fear mongering.  Culture is defined by language, art, music, oral traditions, and way of life, which for most Indigenous people involved living off the land. When you take a defined culture that has been built through generations and reform it to fit a criterion for the purposes of assimilation, that is cultural genocide. An experience that is impossible to fabricate.

As President & CEO of Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) I want to share an additional truth with respect to the economy. In 1876, through the Indian Act (Indian Act | Canadian Encyclopedia), Indigenous inherent economic rights were systematically and expressly stripped. Many Canadians do not know that from 1881 until as recently as 2014; the Indian Act contained a permit system to control First Nations’ ability to sell products off the reserves. Until 1951, First Nations peoples were not considered Indians under the Indian Act if they obtained a post-secondary school degree, which then meant if you were a lawyer or an engineer or a doctor, your Indian status was stripped away.  We lost mentors and role models for our youth and the opportunity for intergenerational wealth, which made way to generations of financial struggle and trauma.

Since its inception 39 years ago, CCAB has been an advocate for rebuilding the Indigenous economy. We take pride in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses, supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs and providing leadership through our research, programs, and mentorship to ensure Indigenous people are full participants in a joint economy in Canada.

Reflecting on the courage of survivors, it is now our turn to show courage – to listen, learn, to not be silent, and to ACT.

Learn more about the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business’ work at

What We Have Learned: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, 118.

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