The Aboriginal Healing Foundation announced that it is launching  a new publication entitled “Cultivating Canada: Reconcilation Through the Lens of Cultural Diversity”. This is a series of essays by non-indigenous, non-white Canadians which hopes to engage a wider circle in the dialogue of truth and reconcilation with first peoples. This is the third in a series of research publications by the AHF. The first book looked at truth and reconciliation in general and the second dealt with the meaning of the official apology offered in 2008 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This current project features extensive color artwork and creative projects.

A book launch in Kamloops on April 5, offered a free copy of this 400 page book to anyone who attends the event. The editor, Ashok Mathur, is from Thompson River University and is Canada’s research chair in cultural and artistic inquiry. He said the AHF is giving it away since “their mandate is to get Canadians to talk about the issues, not make money off it”.

That sounds great, but the fact is that since its inception in 1998, the AHF has been granted $475 million by the Canadian taxpayer with a substantial portion of that money I suspect, going to support the salaries of editors like Mr. Mathur and AHF Executive Director, Michael DeGagne. In that context, six hundred free books doesn’t really sound like that big a deal and with the taxpayer footing the bill, God forbid that the AHF and its editors should worry about something so trivial as trying to recover some of their costs.

Last year the Conservative government announced that this funding would not be renewed and that mental health and emotional support issues would now be provided through a $199 million Health Canada fund.

Commendable and worthwhile as this publication may be, like the previous two, it is mainly an academic exercise that will never be seen, heard about, or noticed by most Canadians and it will do little to engage a much wider circle of dialogue.

I believe that an accessible story such as ‘Blue Saltwater’, published without any government assistance, that weaves a tale about a heroic individual fighting his way through the residential school system, if given at least some verbal support by organizations like the TRC and the AHF, would go alot further in raising awareness amongst Canadians about this issue. This would come at far less cost to the Canadian taxpayer and would allow for funding grants to go directly to helping the people who were most affected.