How can non-Indigenous people engage in reconciliation?

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Do you have questions about residential schools and reconciliation, but don’t know who or where to ask? Do you want to do your part, however big or small, to help the country heal but don’t know how?

It can be daunting to think about generations of abuse against Aboriginal children and, wanting to make a positive difference, try to find a way to help in the process of reconciliation. It can be especially daunting if you’re coming into the process empty handed, without much knowledge of the history of residential schools and how to engage in reconciliation.

It’s okay if it’s daunting. If you mean well and if you recognize that you’re coming from a place of not knowing, there’s a lot of space for learning and growth.

There’s no easy step-by-step way for Canadians and Indigenous people in Canada to achieve reconciliation. But there are a few things everyone can do to help.


There are a number of different resources online that can give anyone a solid understanding of the history of residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s website is filled with these resources, and filled with information from the Commission’s years of hard work.

They Came for the Children is an important historical document that details the purpose, operation, effects and consequences of the residential school system.

The full report from the TRC was released in December, 2015 and it’s understandable if reading the whole document—it’s nearly 4,000 pages—is an unappealing task. The summary of the report, however, is a sufficient replacement and is itself an important read.

And, along with the final report, the TRC released 94 calls to action that are meant to redress the legacy of residential schools.


Groups and organizations across the country, including Friendship Centres, youth groups and women’s shelters, are working towards reconciliation, and have been for years. These groups strive to improve the lives of Indigenous people, to empower them, to help them live healthily, to parent healthily, and to break cycles of violence, poverty and abuse.

One way to help in the reconciliation process is to help these groups and organizations do their vital work. You can donate money if you’re able, or donate your time by volunteering.

To find organizations, programs and services in your community, check out the New Journeys searchable database.


One of the most integral parts of the process towards reconciliation is children, students in school who are learning about the world around them. Incorporating the history of residential schools in curricula across the country is incredibly important, but parents and other caregivers can start discussions—particularly if their kids’ schools aren’t quite there yet—about residential schools, Indigenous peoples in Canada and reconciliation.

If you’re a parent or have young people in your life, you have a great opportunity to help the next generation understand why reconciliation is so crucial for Canada’s future.

The CBC put together a list of books about residential schools you can read with your kids. Check it out here.

If you would like to know more about this topic, you can connect with a counsellor by phone or Live Chat.