06/02/2015 01:35 EDT | Updated 06/02/2016 05:59 EDT

I Know First Hand Why Canada's Aboriginals Need Truth for Reconciliation


The night of September 13, 1976 changed my life. It was the night that I became one of the "Disappeared" in Argentina's Dirty War and it was the night when I became a witness and a voice for those who could no longer speak. The Dirty War was an era when the Argentinian Junta kidnapped, tortured and killed as many as 30,000 people.

The majority of the disappeared were like me, young people who were trying to make Argentina a more just society. I was one of the few Disappeared who were fortunate to have survived. Because I was American by birth and my parents were Mennonite missionaries, they were able to mobilize people across the Americas, including Canada, to raise the alarm and call for my release.

Until the end of the Dirty War, I did what I could to speak for the disappeared. In 1984 democracy returned to Argentina and with it came the start of a collective healing process. Argentina launched a Truth Commission to investigate the atrocities committed by the Junta and its supporters. This process was not without controversy and many survivors and their families held different views on how to move forward. What the Truth Commission did was begin the national conversation in Argentina about what was done in the name of the State, how people were hurt, and the steps required to make the survivors whole and heal the country.

Since then I have been a witness in court, shared my experience with researchers, spoken to community groups and the families of those killed, all in an effort to support the Truth, Justice and Memory movement. I have seen the healing that this movement has brought to those directly affected, like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, but also to the broader public who lived through the Dirty War and to the children born after who deserve to understand and learn from their country's history.

The search for truth, justice and memory can be a painful one and it is never easy work but I have seen the rewards. This is why I passionately believe in the work of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Established in 2008 the TRC has been tasked with researching the stories of the more than 150,000 Aboriginal Peoples affected by the dark history of the Indian Residential School system and has provided a platform for the survivors and their families to speak the truth of their experiences. The process has acknowledged the deep injustices and harms committed against Aboriginal Peoples. The goal of the TRC is to help establish new relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Peoples "embedded in mutual recognition and respect (that) will forge a more equitable future for all Canadians". On Tuesday, the TRC will release their findings which will present new opportunities to work towards a path of healing, reconciliation and renewal.

Save the Children's founder, Eglantyne Jebb wrote the very first Declaration of the Rights of the Child and we are committed to ensuring boys and girls realize the rights to which they are entitled under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For generations in Canada, governments at all levels have failed to provide First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and communities, the most basic of services in health, education, housing, and water much less the standard of services enjoyed by the broader Canadian public. As we build our programs in Canada we are committed to creating strong partnerships based on the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples as protected by the Canadian Constitution, the Treaties and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous peoples.

All Save the Children, from the board to the staff, commit to listen carefully and deeply and to build understanding and respectful relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. We will partner with all committed stakeholders to realize the rights of indigenous boys and girls. The reparations of relations between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples need allies. Allies that support and respect differing worldviews. This is about nation building. Collectively we can bring a greater understanding to the humanity and resiliency of indigenous peoples in Canada. The road will be long and it will not always be easy but the reward will bring about justice and learning the true history will make us more compassionate as a country. As the Chair of the TRC, Justice Murray Sinclair so eloquently says, it is not that we believe that reconciliation will happen but that it should.


Photo gallery
Residential Schools: A Photo History
See Gallery