Truth, Reconciliation and Research
The final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), headed by Justice Murray Sinclair, on the tragic impacts of Indian Residential Schools was released on December 15, 2015. The report reflects the testimony of over 6,000 people, many of them First Nations, Métis and Inuit residential school survivors and their families.
The challenge now, for us at SSHRC, and for all Canadians, is to act promptly on the report’s calls to action.
One of the keys to successfully implementing the report’s recommendations is, unquestionably, evidence-based policy development. Canada’s humanities and social science scholars are essential players in the ongoing truth and reconciliation journey—both in the art of dealing with hidden and often uncomfortable truths in our histories, cultures, laws, perceptions, habits and ways of thinking; and in the science of building up a foundation for genuine reconciliation and growth based on the two-way flow of knowledge and understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
Over the last 15 years, indigenous and non-indigenous researchers have come together to work out new rules of engagement, including a definitive shift away from research “on and for” to research “by and with” indigenous peoples. This shift has seen research and knowledge mobilization benefit keenly from leadership by, and partnership with, indigenous scholars and their communities.
At SSHRC, we have underscored our longstanding commitment to research “by and with” indigenous peoples by embracing it as a central guiding principle. In 2015, after extensive collaboration with its Aboriginal Advisory Circle, SSHRC launched its Aboriginal Research Statement of Principles and related resources—including its definition of Aboriginal research—in support of Aboriginal research and talent. This ensures SSHRC’s concept of scholarly excellence includes indigenous perspectives, knowledge, methodologies and approaches.
The TRC has identified a wide range of areas for urgent action to support reconciliation: child welfare, education, indigenous languages and cultures, health, justice and corrections, indigenous rights, treaties and governance, youth and communities, museums and archives, history, media, sports, business, and nearly every other aspect of Canadian life.
Social science and humanities scholars and their partners across the country are in a position to facilitate access to knowledge in all of these areas – knowledge properly grounded in relations of respect, diversity and reciprocity between indigenous and academic communities.
Other SSHRC president editorials:
Good research key to helping refugees, youth flourish (Chronicle Herald, January 2016)
The Hill Times, November 2015—subscription required)
"It’s time to ‘think different’ about innovation" (
Libre accès pour le bien public (Découvrir, May 2015)
The Hill Times, October 2014—subscription required)
"Canada’s newest resource is flexible, sustainable, potentially unlimited" (
The Hill Times, July 2014—subscription required)
"Canadian Research on Social Licensing Can Bridge the Gap in Technological Innovation" (