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Faculty of Arts & Science

Arts & Science News

Can public memory lead nations to reconciliation?

Professor Pamela Klassen investigates how nations are not only politically imagined, but also spiritually invented. Focused on interactions between Christian missionaries and Indigenous peoples in early 20th century Canada, her research also considers what remembering this history means for efforts of reconciliation in the present.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), aimed at recognizing the victims and giving voice to survivors of the Indian Residential Schools system, sums up Canada’s historical policy towards its Indigenous people as a form of cultural genocide. The goal of that policy, the commission concludes, was to eradicate Indigenous culture. Canada’s past is not unique and, arguably, violence is at the founding of every nation. But in an increasingly multicultural society like Canada, what does it mean to remember the role that churches and governments played in this eradication? How might the study of religion and public memory contribute to the reconciliation called for by the TRC report? sharp conflicts of our past can we hope to work towards reconciliation today.