The 130 or so years that Canada spent “educating” its aboriginal peoples to conform to the European mind-set have been over for some time now, but the country is only just beginning to connect the dots between those days and the damage they are still causing even today.
This week marks the second of seven National Events being held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was formed in 2008 to gather testimony and help the country make reparations to its aboriginals and promote healing. Many of the 80,000 students who survived were abused, sexually and otherwise, by personnel in the often church-run schools. Over the next four years, five more such events will take place in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan as the TRC completes its mission.
A thousand or more survivors, plus family members, supporters and other participants have gathered in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, to hear the latest testimony from former students and to better understand this chapter of the nation’s history. The event goes from June 28 through July 1.
“It’s intended as an opportunity for educating—educating widely the Canadian public about a really really important chapter of Canadian history, which was the 130 or so years when Indian Residential Schools as they were called, were run for aboriginal children in all parts of Canada. And most Canadians knew very little or nothing at all about the existence of the schools or what went on in them,” says Commissioner Marie Wilson, who is leading this event, in the following video.
The end goal is one of healing, Wilson says, so that Canadians of all stripes can “try and understand each other in a new way.”
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan also attended the event.
The hearings are being webcast.