When I think about Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, the first examples that pop into my head are South Africa, Kenya, Cambodia; developing countries that have been plagued by conflict and need to find a way to air their grievances and start to move the country forward. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are often viewed as an alternative to violence. They are a mechanism by with grievances can be aired and perpetrators of crime can take responsibility for their actions through the means of engaging in conversation. It is the idea that through talking with one another we can create a space in which we can begin to move past these grievances and begin to move forward.
Growing up in Canada, I learned about the treatment of aboriginal populations at the hands of colonialists and Canadians of European decent, and the mechanisms that the Canadian government has now put into place in an attempt to rectify these treatment of these people. However, I was surprised and excited to see that Canada has a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically to deal with the subjection of aboriginal populations to Residential Schools; surprised because the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission in country that had not experienced violent conflict has not previously crossed my mind, and excited because I thought this is exactly what the world needs.
The fact that Canada is using a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a way by which to air the grievances demonstrates first and foremost, the increasing trend of TRCs and the movement away from criminal processes as the sole mechanisms of reconcilation. There is a growing belief criminal processes leave a void in the reconciliation process. The render a verdict, creating an absolute right, risking the alienation of the other party in the process, which can further exacerbate tensions between groups. That's not to say that criminal justice is not important. It is tremendously important. It provides precedent and deterrence from the reoccurrence of these crimes, but they need to happen concurrently with TRC processes that help society heal as whole. TRC processes should continue to be embraces by ALL countries as a mechanism to achieve reconciliation and avoid future tensions.