Truth & Reconciliation Commission – Calls to Action (…it begins with coloured pens…)

After year of work, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its executive summary of its work.  The summary, which every Canadian should read, is 388 pages.  It is quite a document, and people will need to take time to read it.   The TRC also released a much shorter document listing its 94 recommendations — or as they name them, Calls to Action.

The past two weeks, this has been truly my favourite document.  It is also a dense document.  There is SO MUCH in here, that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the text.  In an attempt to read it in a way that works with my own brain, I started reading with coloured pens and pencils, highlighting and circling.

TRC p1-2

Here is what the first two pages of my annotations currently look like.  For a PDF copy of my ‘in-progress’ annotated copy, click here:  call to action – rj annotations

I highly recommend the method.  It is a good way to get some clarity on who is being asked to do what. 

I think there are lots of different ways and colours, but for me, one option was to start with the VERBS.  What i tried to do was separate out the different kinds of verb/actions that were involved.  ie.

  • FUNDING VERBS (tg allocate money or resources or funds to something)
  • LEGISLATING VERBS (make new legislation; repeal or amend; appoint people)
  • MONITORING VERBS (to investigate something to see what is going on)
  • REPORTING VERBS (to give feedback or follow through on actions)
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT VERBS (to develop programs, to train, to educate)
  • SYMBOLIC/RECOGNITION VERBS (apologies, admissions, acknowledgements, statements)

I also started thinking about the WHO, to see what kinds of people were being spoken to in the different recommendations (ie. ‘government’ and “Aboriginal” are terms that are inclusive but may be too big for some purposes.  The recommendations are often quite a bit more specific)

  • Canada
  • The Prime Minister
  • Federal Government
  • Provincial/Territorial Government
  • Municipal Government
  • Aboriginal Government
  • Aboriginal Organizations
  • Aboriginal Peoples
  • Aboriginal Spiritual Leaders

And then, when you get going, you start to see that there are LOTS of groups and people in here: Parties to the Settlement Agreement; Law Societies and Law Schools; Medical and Nursing Schools, health care workers; religious congregations; faith groups; Journalists, Coaches; archivists, interfaith social justice groups.

Further more, if you go through with a yellow highlighter, you can see all the times that the Calls to Action ask people to work together in collaboration.  And there is often specificity regarding WHICH groups should be working together collaboratively on which kinds of activities.  Some of these things need people to work together, and some of them make space for people working alone.

My own advice?  Pick up some crayons and start reading….

(if you want to read a short piece that my friend Gillian Calder and I wrote for Canadian Lawyer magazine on recommendations #27 (the Federation of Law Societies)  and #28 (to Law Schools) click here)

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2 thoughts on “Truth & Reconciliation Commission – Calls to Action (…it begins with coloured pens…)

  1. Prof. Johnson, I heard you speak at McGill a few weeks back and loved the example of how you annotated the calls to action. I had unfortunately lost the sheet since then so was thrilled to see you have a copy here with notes. Your presentation was wonderful. Thank you for the work you do.

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