Limits of "Truth and Reconciliation": The Effects of compensation on stories about residential schools and Japanese Canadian internment

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Matsunaga, Jennifer
Truth and Reconciliation , Indian Residential Schools , Japanese Canadian Internment , Reparations , Compensation , Settler Colonialism , Transitional Justice , Truth-telling
This thesis problematizes truth-telling about historical injustices in the settler state context of Canada. Truth-telling, in the field of transitional justice, is a survivor-centred process that is typically facilitated by truth commissions to generate a new historical record about a previously denied historical injustice. Truth-telling and compensation are often coupled as reparations for an historical injustice. Within the transitional justice framework, these two measures fall under the “Right to Know” and the “Right to Reparation” respectively. Extending studies of (settler) governmentality (Foucault 2009; Monaghan 2013; Walters 2012) and theories of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization (Alfred 2005; Coulthard 2014; Simpson 2011a, 2016a; Tuck and Yang 2012), this research finds compensation works against the truth-telling of survivors by erasing key aspects of historical injustice within the records of the Canadian civil service. I make this broad argument through three sub-claims. First, I argue that compensation influences the development of new historical narratives. Through Japanese Canadian redress, I demonstrate how Canada’s Public Accounts re-articulates compensation to survivors as a benevolent act of government and trace such benevolence to (settler)colonial dispositions towards Indigenous populations. Second, through the Common Experience Payment to residential school survivors, I find that compensation application forms and program evaluations are two sites which produce silences about historical injustice and survivors by rearticulating these as service delivery to target populations and for all Canadians. Third, I contend that the liberal and nation-building transitional justice framework, within which reparations are being increasingly conceptualized for addressing Indigenous rights, is incommensurable with reparation in the form of decolonization, despite efforts to articulate it as such. This thesis offers insight into the rationalities of government that are used to address the historical injustice claims of survivors and sounds a voice in the space of the silences which compensation processes produce in the records of the Canadian civil service.
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