The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action for Language Teachers and Scholars (by Andrea Sterzuk)

Andrea Sterzuk grew up in an English-speaking home in rural Saskatchewan on Treaty 6 territory. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a public school teacher in rural Saskatchewan as well as in the Canadian arctic. She is currently an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, located on Treaty 4 territory. She lectures in English and French to undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of linguistic diversity in schools, second language pedagogy, and issues of power, identity, and language in education. Her current research examines the development of language beliefs in teachers.

tânsi, Andrea nitisiyihkâson êkwa Watson ohci niya. oskana-ka-âsastêki niwîkin mêkwâc. I’m a settler-Canadian writing from Treaty 4 territory. I live and work in Regina, Saskatchewan at the University of Regina in the settler society of Canada.  Settler societies such as Canada, South Africa, Mexico, and New Zealand are places where Europeans, and subsequently others, permanently settled land seized from Indigenous peoples. As a researcher and teacher educator, I spend a lot of time thinking about settler identity, colonialism, and schools. Specifically, I’m interested in how language education and teacher language beliefs contribute to the (re)production of Canada’s colonial hierarchy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). The TRC began in June, 2008 as a response to the Indian Residential School legacy.

Paroisse Sacré Coeur Lebret Saskatchewan.jpeg
Sacred Heart Church, Lebret, Saskatchewan. Lebret was the site of a residential school run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Nuns (photo: Andrea Sterzuk) 

 The work of the commission culminated in June, 2015 with their final report, which includes 94 calls to action. These calls to actions are designed to begin reconciliation between settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples. The calls have implications for federal, provincial governments and Indigenous nations in Canada. The document also includes calls to action for post-secondary institutions, law schools, church parties, the prime minister, the Pope, educators, Ministers of Education, and chief coroners.  Recently, even Facebook is thinking about the calls!

As an applied linguist and teacher educator, I recognize calls to action that implicate me.  The 94 calls to action are written in ways that allow for many possible responses. But they do require that we act, both collectively and individually. Just one example is the call for postsecondary universities to “create university and college degree programs in Aboriginal languages.” In Saskatchewan, there are several existing programs such as the BA programs in Saulteaux and Cree at First Nations University and the Indigenous Language Certificate at the University of Saskatchewan.

First Nations University of Canada.jpeg
First Nations University of Canada (photo: Andrea Sterzuk)

 But there is room for more here and across Canada. As an applied linguist and teacher educator, I have a responsibility to listen carefully for ways that I can support program development, research and teaching in the area of Indigenous languages. Reconciliation allows for the possibility that “people can learn to live together in relation to difficult histories” (Tupper, 2014, p. 485). Looking for ways that we can respond to the TRC’s Calls to Action is one way that may lead to reconciliation.






2 thoughts on “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action for Language Teachers and Scholars (by Andrea Sterzuk)

  1. Hurrah, thanks Andrea, and I think blog followers should know about your book! It is EXCELLENT…

    Sterzuk, Andrea. (2011). The struggle for legitimacy. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


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