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2016 Calgary Peace Prize to honours work of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

HPimg - Calgary Peace Prize 2016 Recipients
The Turning Robe Singers Drumming Group from the Siksika Nation participated in the 2016 Calgary Peace Prize. ~ Photo by Mackenzie Cann

Updated April 8, 2016

Marie Wilson is calling on all Canadians to read the 94 Calls to Action coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"There are only 12 pages. It doesn't matter who you are. Everyone should be able to find themselves and be a part of a couple of the calls to action," she said during the Calgary Peace Prize event on April 7 at the Taylor Centre for Performing Arts at Mount Royal University, adding that the Calls to Action should be required reading in all schools.

Wilson accepted the Calgary Peace Prize, honouring the work done by Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Wilton Littlechild and herself on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which documented the stories of over 6,000 living survivors of the residential school system following the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed against the Canadian government in 2007.

In a raw moment, she gestured to empty seats in the concert hall and referenced Elder Miiksika'am's blessing, where he acknowledged those who came before us.

Wilson, who holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, said that for her, these empty seats were for the spirits of the thousands of children who died in residential schools. Watch her speech below.

Marie Wilson calls on all Canadians to read the 94 Calls to Action coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.


The Honourable Justice Sinclair was unable to attend the award ceremony, but recorded a video accepting the Calgary Peace Prize and providing his perspectives.

Video provided by the University of Winnipeg's Centre for Academic Technologies' and Marketing/Communications.


April 8, 2016
- Andrea Ranson
Through Peace Prize, TRC look to light the torches of Canadian societyOn April 7, when Marie Wilson joins newly appointed senator Justice Murray Sinclair and Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild in receiving the 2016 Calgary Peace Prize, she will be thinking of the courage of the survivors from Canada's residential school system.

"I know it doesn't belong to the commissioners alone," Wilson, who holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, says. "Our work was really as a result of the survivors."

Peace Prize Content 2016
Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild with unidentified man at the Winnipeg National Event that was held between June 16 and 19 of 2010 ~ Photo courtesy of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The Peace Prize will highlight the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which documented the stories of over 6,000 living survivors of the residential school system following the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed against the Canadian government in 2007. On June 2, 2015, the commissioners revealed their findings on what is considered a dark chapter of Canadian history. The final report was published the following December.

The prize the commissioners will receive was established in 2006 by the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary in recognition of those in the global community who have made significant contributions towards peace and social justice. Past recipients include Dr. Samantha Nutt , Emmanuel Jal and Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.
Creating peace on campusWhile the ceremony is usually held through the University of Calgary, this is the first year the prize will be handed out on behalf of Mount Royal University. Sociology faculty member Mark Ayyash, PhD, recognizes the significance of the prize for Mount Royal, as the University is currently in the process of rolling out its Indigenous Strategic Plan.

"One of the important aspects of the plan and the indigenization effort is that we get more indigenous voices on campus, that we get more indigenous knowledge and culture and practices on campus," he says. "So towards that end, what better way than to do it with the Truth and Reconciliation commissioners."

Peace Prize 2016 - Residential School Children
Indigenous children pose for a picture outside a residential school. ~ Photo courtesy of the Library and Archives Canada

Wilson voices a similar view, highlighting the role universities have to play in the reconciliation process.

"We have been on a big learning curve over the past six and a half years as a country because most us have grown up not knowing this history and most of our universities haven't taught much about it, if any of it," she said. "I think it's very, very important and very courageous for those universities to say, 'We will be the places where that learning starts to change and create opportunities...where that academic and intellectual restitution can begin.'

"This forum, this recognition, the name of this recognition all contributes towards an ongoing deepening understanding that we are all involved in reconciliation and it's not indigenous history, it's Canadian history," she said.
Defending peace for CanadiansMoving forward, Wilson wants to see tangible action towards reconciliation and building peace, as she feels peace, ironically, is a battle hard-won. She muses on one instance at the issuing of the final report where a survivor referenced the commissioners as "peace warriors," detracting from the war-like dictionary definition to one of defending and building a peace movement.

Wilson also recognizes that in spite of the award, there is still a long way to go for all sectors of Canadian society moving towards reconciliation.

Peace Prize 2016 - Residential School Boys
Residential school boys in uniform. ~ Photo courtesy of the Library and Archives Canada

"We have not had peaceful relations between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of Canada, and certainly in our more contemporary history… it's a clarion call for peace advocates to be working together strategically," she said. "One of the things for me that is most important in all of the hearings we've done are the number of people who have come forward and said 'what can I do? What can we do?' "

These tangible actions Wilson speaks of also resonates with John Lamming, chair of Peace Prize committee. He sees the awarding of commissioners as their way of promoting reconciliation in the broader Canadian society.

"Now, their job is to (encourage) Canadians to take the torch, to take this issue for themselves and say 'how can we contribute now?'" he said.

While the TRC has officially closed and the commissioner's roles will change, Wilson sees the Calgary Peace Prize in respect to the commission's work as an invaluable tool to promote the prize's very name: peace.

"Anything and everything that helps shine a light on this historic work in our country - which has also been historic in so many ways in the world - is hugely valuable, and I think the particular gift of this particular award is its very name," she said. "It underscores that this is not about national blaming and shaming, it's about national peace building and investing in peace."

The award ceremony will take place April 7 at the Taylor Centre for Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. Tickets can be purchased here.

Please note: Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild, as well as Justice Murray Sinclai - both due to scheduling conflicts - will not be able to attend the ceremony.

March 22, 2016 Cameron Perrier