Last week Adele Perry, a historian at the University of Manitoba, spearheaded an open-letter by historians in Canada calling on the Government of Canada to ensure the release of all records related to residential schools and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The letter builds on similar letters and demonstrations by First Nations communities, librarians, archivists and museum workers. Over the weekend, it was circulated by e-mail (see signatures below) and we have now uploaded it to change.org in order to include additional names. Click the link if you would like to be included as a signatory.
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada needs full and timely access to archival records related to the administration and activities of residential schools. The work of the Commission depends on having access to all relevant records held in federal repositories.
As people who study and teach about the past historians realize the importance of archives and the important role they play in scholarship, education, and public debate. I join other historians in calling for the release of all relevant records so that the Commission may, in particular, fulfill its goals related to promoting awareness and public education about residential schools and the creation of a historical record to be made accessible to the public.
The expedited release of these records is required for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to fulfill its mandate by 2014. As historians, we urge the federal government to release the necessary documents and allow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to do the important work it was created to do.
Adele Perry, University of Manitoba
Thomas Peace, Acadia University
Veronica Strong-Boag, University of British Columbia
Mary Jane McCallum, University of Winnipeg
Karen Dubinsky, Queen’s University
Jarvis Brownlie, University of Manitoba
Angus McLaren, University of Victoria
Sherry Farrell Racette, University of Manitoba
Gillian Poulter, Acadia University
Jennifer Bonnell, McMaster University
Tom Nesmith, University of Manitoba
Jim Clifford, University of Saskatchewan
Dan Rueck, York University
Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo
Donald Fyson, Université Laval
Colin Coates, York University
Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia
It seems to me that the preface to this petition should be amended to include an overview of the issue, or links to such an overview. As is, it sorely lacks what historians are usually recognized for: context. The case for the “release of all relevant records” is not nearly as self-evident as Prof. Perry and the Active Historians seem to assume. What would be involved in making these documents available to researchers? What reasons have LAC or the government given for not releasing the documents any sooner? Do we understand how much it would cost, and how much of LAC’s already strained resources it might divert? Are there other feasible solutions, such as extending the Commission’s mandate? My training and instincts as an historian convince me that things take time, and spidey senses accordingly tend to tingle when I heard calls to immediate action.
And to be clear I’m not saying that in this case immediate action is *not* justified, but rather that an explicit justification is a requisite cornerstone of an effective petition. I’d love to read an Active History piece that fleshes out this appeal.