Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


The Indian Residential School system was one of the most visible instances of a broader colonial project that sought to destroy Aboriginal difference in Canada and overthrow a relationship based on treaties and mutual respect. As part of an out-of-court settlement of several class action law suits by school survivors against the federal government and churches, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was tasked with setting a historic record of the effects of the residential schools and fostering reconciliation between the parties to the settlement (including Aboriginal plaintiffs, the Government of Canada, the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, United Church, and Presbyterian Church). This research argues that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada represents a transformative opportunity in Crown-Aboriginal relations that has the potential to initiate a decolonial and collaborative framework where Crown and Aboriginal governments will interact as equals. This conclusion is supported by interviews with influential individuals involved in the stablishment of the commission from the Assembly of First Nations, former government ministers, bureaucrats, and church leaders. Far from prescribing an outcome of reconciliation this study argues the Crown needs to follow a political ethic that makes room for Aboriginal agency in negotiating the continuing relationship between the Crown and various Aboriginal peoples in order to move away from the current colonial interactions.