Dr. Starzyk at an United Nations Development Program experts consultation on reconciliation.

Dr. Starzyk at an United Nations Development Program experts consultation on reconciliation.

As part of larger colonial and assimilation efforts, for over 100 years the Government of Canada and partnering religious groups removed Indigenous children from their homes and moved them to “Residential Schools” now known for pervasive abuse of all varieties and neglect.  In 2008, faced with legal and political pressure, the federal government apologized and provided reparations, including funding for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Until 2015 the TRC worked with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to uncover the truth of what happened in Residential Schools and promote both healing and reconciliation. Despite the TRC’s dedication, intergroup relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples continue to be a challenge for Canada.

Since the TRC issued its Final Report with the declaration “it’s time for reconciliation,” the topic has been of frequent public discourse—the federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (The Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett) has even coined her role as “Minister of Reconciliation.”  Reconciliation is thus an urgent and compelling subject for the Canadian public.

We are working to understand:

  • How Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada think about reconciliation. Our hope is to develop a Canadian “reconciliation barometer” in collaboration with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and research partners to track reconciliation in Canada on an on-going basis. Though barometers of reconciliation exist in three other countries, they are evolving projects and cannot be directly imported for use in Canada because of specificities in cultural and historical contexts.

  • How perceived reconciliation relates to well-being.

  • How to engage non-Indigenous peoples in reconciliation efforts.

Some residents of Manitoba's Island Lake First Nations get by on less than 15 litres of clean water per day; the amount the United Nations recommends in disaster zones. About 3,400 First Nations homes do not have indoor plumbing and more than 100 First Nations communities are under a drinking water advisory. Approximately 39% of water systems and 14% of sanitation systems on First Nations are classified as high risk. The cost of fixing these problems is estimated at $4.7 billion. While 96% of Canadians believe that clean water should be guaranteed as a human right, rallying public support is difficult. Supported by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, led by Dr. Karen Busby (Law, University of Manitoba), and coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights Research, this project aims to understand how First Nations can best advocate for better water and wastewater services. Including a number of partners, most notably the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, co-investigators, and collaborators, the project has legal, economic, and public engagement clusters. As a Co-Investigator and lead of the Public Engagement Cluster, Dr. Starzyk's goal is to understand what advocacy strategies First Nations peoples would find acceptable and explore Canadians' attitudes toward the issue through interviews, online nationally representative surveys, experimental studies, and an innovative Photovoice project.

** The results of this project will be available in 2019 on this site. **

Find out more on the Centre for Human Rights Research website or through one of the following media articles:

Winnipeg Free Press newspaper articles:

*Photo courtesy Joe Bryksa of the Winnipeg Free Press. 
* Artwork courtesy of Jackie Traverse of Lake St. Martin First Nation depicting women as water keepers.

Efforts are being made to foster education and commemoration of Canada's Indian Residential School system. With few sites of consciousness available, and a dwindling number of Survivors to give testimony, what can we do to make Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere more aware of the history of Residential Schools and their continuing impact upon our shared world? Funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant entitled "Embodying Empathy: Fostering Historical Knowledge and Caring Through a Virtual Indian Residential School" and led by Dr. Andrew Woolford (Sociology, University of Manitoba) and in partnership with an advisory group of survivors, a multidisciplinary group of faculty are building a virtual Indian Residential School that can be accessed online and installed within commemorative spaces, hypothesizing that this technology can help educate and engage those who interact with it. In 2017-2018, as a Co-Investigator, Dr. Starzyk will lead the project team that will evaluate how engaging in the virtual Residential School affects people's attitudes and feelings toward Residential Schools and survivors.