Truth and Indignation
Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools
Truth and Indignation offers the first close and critical assessment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as it is unfolding. Niezen uses interviews with survivors and oblate priests and nuns, as well as testimonies, texts, and visual materials produced by the Commission to raise important questions: What makes Canada’s TRC different from others around the world? What kinds of narratives are emerging and what does that mean for reconciliation, transitional justice, and conceptions of traumatic memory? What happens to the ultimate goal of reconciliation when a large part of the testimony—that of nuns, priests, and government officials—is scarcely evident in the Commission’s proceedings? Thoughtful, provocative, and uncompromising in the need to tell the “truth” as he sees it, Niezen offers an important contribution to our understanding of TRC processes in general, and the Canadian experience in particular.
Truth and Indignation is the first attempt by an eloquent observer to document what has become of the Truth and Reconciliation process. Oddly, the commission almost resembles the Indian schools themselves—a cruel, ambiguous, institutional response to conflict and failure. Niezen's book is a crisp analysis of an unfolding drama that seems certain to end badly.- <i>Blacklock's Reporter</i>
Truth and Indignation is the result of a detailed research project that examined the still-ongoing work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is respectful both of the work and the participants and yet highly critical of the enterprise. It is a tremendous step forward from a scholarly human rights culture that has been overly awed by the truth commission phenomenon and far too slow in probing beneath the surfaces.- <i>Human Rights Quarterly</i>
This well-written and thoughtful study provides a timely, critical perspective on the TRC. In so doing, it fits well with other critical writing on state redress that attends to the limits and problems associated with the practice.- <i>Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory</i>
Niezen was faced with the challenge of writing about events that were still taking place. His ability to shape his narrative as something that is flowing and changing works. He has taken an important critical perspective on the TRC rather than simply reporting events.- <i>Anthropologica</i>
This is a sensitive, sometimes abstract, exploration of the moral and practical terrain of this truth commission, and all truth commissions. There is serious, almost abrasive intellectual honesty in the text. The author avoids the temptation just to reproduce the indignation evoked from testimonies, and to give simple expression to what he describes as 'a kind of persistent, nagging, sympathetic sense of wrong' that accompanies any thinking on residential schools. Certainly responding to that sense of wrong is one's first instinct. After all, as Niezen neatly summarizes, the schools represent 'quite possibly the worst crime in private life, the sexual abuse of children, applied in the context of one of the worst wrongs in public life, the purposeful, policy-driven elimination of a people. ' But Niezen opts for a clinical remove from the moral content of the story, in order to observe the TRC more critically. There was an easier book to write, but Truth and Indignation is more nuanced, more challenging, and as a result more stimulating.- <em>Literary Review of Canada</em>