This talk explores the optics of reconciliation and the visibility of “truth” in the Canadian Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, 2007 (IRSSA). The IRSSA is a legal settlement to redress the violence experienced by Indigenous children through Indian Residential Schools. From 1831 to 1996, federally funded schools displaced an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children. The abuse, trauma, and violence experienced by Indigenous populations through this 150-year policy were and continue to be devastating. The IRSSA brought together a range of therapeutic, performative, and compensatory policy initiatives aimed at the reconciliation of Indigenous/settler populations, including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an unprecedented individual assessment program. Although reconciliation in Canada is premised on the revelation of historical truth, this talk explores how the Agreement structures access to or obscures the visibility of the truth: competing trajectories of visibility and invisibility work to mediate settler visualizations of Indigenous/settler relationships and, consequently, the possibilities for reconciliation. My analysis focuses on the physical and virtual visuality of reconciliation in Canada. I draw on my own experiences of the public TRC national events, centered on performances of testimony and witness and framed by multifarious streaming and recording devices. I contrast the TRC’s ethos of visibility and revelation against the policy directives and actualization of an invisible, but monumental, “closed-door” assessment program, where Survivors were required to detail their most intimate experiences of sexual and physical violence for the Adjudication body and federal government. Ultimately, this talk challenges the efficacy of state-based justice and redress for Indigenous peoples.
Lara Fullenwieder recently received her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University, Canada. Her thesis, entitled Unsettling Histories: Representation and Indigenous Creative Art Praxis in Official Indian Residential School Redress is an investigation of the role of visual strategies, art, and representation in reconciling Indian Residential School history in Canada. Her research interests include settler biopolitics, politics of representation, visual cultures, and critical settler methodologies. She is currently a Research Assistant at Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, and is an Editorial Assistant for the The Visuality of Reconciliation Project at Queen’s.
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