January 11, 2016

OTTAWA - Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has completed its mandate, the federal government must establish a National Council for Reconciliation, says lawyer Pierre Baribeau.

Baribeau, who represented the 50 Catholic entities that were parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, said unless the council is created the momentum for reconciliation "will still be there but in slow motion."

The proposed council would be comprised of members appointed by Canada and Aboriginal organizations.

It would "monitor, evaluate and report annually to Parliament and the people of Canada on the Government of Canada's post-apology progress on reconciliation to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years."

Baribeau said if Trudeau asks for cooperation from the Catholic Church, "I assume he will get it," but it will be directly from the Catholic bishops and religious orders.

"It will be through bilateral and multilateral requests," he said. "The bishops have been offering their cooperation.

"The religious groups have not only offered but also are implementing reconciliation across Canada. They have not been waiting for the report."

"We have hundreds of initiatives of reconciliation and compassion that have been taken by Catholic entities and organizations," he said. "This has never been stressed or pointed out by anyone."

The National Council for Reconciliation would have to be created by the prime minister, with appointments by the prime minister and with a budget from the federal government, he said.

Baribeau spent 22 years on the file related to residential schools and dioceses and religious orders that ran them.

He fears media attention "will evaporate if there's not concrete action that would make that council accountable to Canadians and accountable to Parliament."