Ve’ahavta and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) were among the Jewish organizations participating in the ceremonies supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), an independent commission whose mandate is to acknowledge experiences, impacts and consequences of Indian residential school (IRS) experiences. The TRC promotes awareness and public education, while working to complete an historical record of the 150-year history of the IRS system and its impacts. The TRC also works to encourage and guide a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships with all Canadians.
Ve’ahavta and CIJA presented a public statement of solidarity and action on behalf of six Jewish organizations – Ve’ahavta, CIJA, Canadian Council for Reform Judaism, Reform Rabbis of Greater Toronto, Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and Toronto Board of Rabbis – which formally acknowledges the residential school experiences, impacts and consequences, as well as the inequalities faced by aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) communities today. The statement reads:
“The pursuit of a just society is a fundamental concept at the core of Judaism. We, the signees, are motivated by the Jewish values of compassion, sharing, repairing the world and working towards justice for all. We, therefore, commit to a high level of meaningful action in partnership and solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Canada….
“The shared experiences between Jewish and indigenous communities offer a foundation of mutual understanding and unity. Our common histories include persecution, intimidation, forced assimilation and discrimination. These realities bind our two communities. We believe that our mutual values of family, language, culture, elders, and spiritual and ritual preservation – along with the connections to self-determination, kinship and homeland – bring our voices and communities together….
“Historically, indigenous peoples experienced traumatic social change, institutional violence and prolonged attempts to forcibly assimilate them into the Canadian whole. Today, indigenous peoples face disproportionately lower socio-economic conditions as compared to non-indigenous Canadians. There are dramatic disparities in the areas of education, health and well-being, life expectancy, employment, housing, living conditions, average income and access to social services, and over-representation in the justice and social assistance systems. It is important to bring to light an understanding of the history and legacy of these policies, including the residential school system, in order to achieve a just society….
“We believe that partnership and relationship-building must be based on mutual respect, cooperation and understanding. On both the community and individual level, we commit to develop partnerships as a means of celebrating diversity and learning from our respective cultures, unique heritage and traditional knowledge. Through patient and respectful dialogue, we will build capacity in our community for collective participation in promoting social justice together with indigenous peoples….
“We, the signees, commit ourselves to meaningful public education in the Jewish community and beyond and outreach to indigenous communities to guide us to help improve the quality of life of indigenous peoples. We encourage all Jews to build bridges and explore the similarities that bind all humanity, accepting and rejoicing in the differences that make us unique and in the diversity that enriches us all.”