Narrative, Decolonial Education, and Societal Transformation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper examines the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s work to promote reconciliation through narrative. Two years after the Government of Canada’s 2008 apology for the Indian Residential School System, the TRC organized its first National Event in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The occasion was publicized as an opportunity for individuals affected by the IRSS to talk about their experiences, and envisage a path towards mutual respect and reconciliation. The TRC is not a criminal tribunal and does not have subpoena powers; its mandate is to collect stories, create public forums for Indigenous voices and histories, and promote public education about the IRSS and its legacy. Employing Derrick Bell Jr.’s theory of interest-convergence, I explore the idea that enhanced education is not a sufficient counterweight to colonial legacies. Truth and reconciliation are not concomitant; one does not necessarily lead to the other. Rather, some transitional catalyst (e.g., justice, healing, restitution) must intervene. The core question is how to motivate the transition from knowledge to societal transformation. An array of communicative practices may be employed towards this end. The paperexamines the potential and limits of communication in reconciliation efforts. It asks: what can spark political reconfigurations? Mass publicity? Still more stories? Guilt is an imperfect motivator. Audiences have attention limits and repetition may lead to fatigue. I ultimately assess the Commission’s capacity to foster broad public support for substantive socio-political evolution.   
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationCommunicating Differences: Culture, Media, Peace and Conflict Negotiation
StatePublished - 2016


  • Truth and reconciliation
  • Canada
  • Residential schools
  • Narrative
  • Interest convergence


  • Political Science
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Cite this