Category: General Message
Subject: CPSA and Reconciliation
CPSA and Reconciliation
The CPSA and Reconciliation
Prepared by Yasmeen Abu-Laban
The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released June 2015 will affect political scientists and the CPSA. The Report defines reconciliation as an ongoing process to establish and maintain “respectful relationships” between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Canadians. Moreover, “A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change “(TRC Executive Summary, 17-18). The new Liberal government has made clear its commitment to the process of reconciliation and public institutions will be encouraged to respond to the challenges reconciliation poses.
How are political scientists likely to be affected and how might CPSA and its members respond? Post-secondary institutions, research and teaching are directly implicated in many of the 94 calls made by the TRC. They include calls for: increased access for Aboriginal people to post-secondary education; increased federal funding for post- secondary education that will support access; the diversification of university education through e.g. the development of new programs and courses in indigenous languages, history, legal traditions, and knowledge; and developing new research on the process and effects of reconciliation. This clearly involves both challenges and opportunities for political scientists. For example, the TRC Report states: “We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi- year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation” (TRC Executive Summary, 242).
How are other organizations responding? Many universities are already responding to the challenges posed by the TRC, as have other academic associations, notably the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The CPSA, likewise, needs to develop a plan for responding to the challenges and opportunities the reconciliation process will entail. As a responsible professional association, the CPSA has an obligation to help its members, and member departments, navigate the new environment. Therefore, the CPSA needs to develop its own organizational response.
Because reconciliation is an on-going process, not a one time event, and because what might be termed the “politics of reconciliation” are unfolding quickly, discussions within the Executive and with key members of the board and in the association indicated the value of having a dedicated group of political scientists addressing these issues. To this end, the CPSA Board of Directors approved the following motion on May 30, 2016:
That the CPSA Board of Directors strike a “Reconciliation Committee” to report on the implications of the Truth and Reconciliation findings for political science and political scientists in Canada;
That the committee be composed of professors Isabel Altamirano (University of Alberta), Glen Coulthard (University of British Columbia), Rauna Kuokkanen (University of Toronto), Kiera Ladner (University of Manitoba), Peter Russell (University of Toronto, former CPSA President) and Daniel Salée (Concordia University);
That the committee make an initial report to the Board in December 2016 with a proposed plan of action for reconciliation in political science and a program for the January 2017 Chairs’ Meeting and the 2017 Annual Conference.
 For an overview see also the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Available: www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf