Opinion: Healing from the residential school legacy in Canada

Marina Cantacuzino, the founder of The Forgiveness Project, discusses the legacy of residential schools in Canada:
Stan LaPierre points to the chair I'm sitting on. "That," he says "is where hundreds of aboriginal youth in custody sit and tell me their secrets." He strongly believes that disclosing the pain of the past to someone you trust is healing. LaPierre is a traditional elder and Co-ordinator of Aboriginal Spiritual Care at MYS (Manitoba Youth Service) -- the largest residential youth correctional center in the province of Manitoba based in Winnipeg.

He is an inspirational mentor, a much needed father figure or Mishomis (grandfather) and a spiritual counsellor who administers sacred Aboriginal traditions through smudging and cleansing ceremonies to the young people incarcerated here. "I have heard thousands of secrets of sexual abuse, witnessed so much grieving from these young people" he says.

"They sit in this chair and they start to heal because they are prepared to talk. They need to free themselves if they're going to have the energy to do something with their life."

LaPierre's task is to bring Aboriginal culture -- the healing methods and stories of identity -- to all the prisons of Manitoba. For most young people the traditions of their ancestors have been lost due to a stain on Canadian history, one that the world knows too little about and which most Canadians seem reluctant to confront. Perhaps this is out of shame for their past or perhaps because these First Nation people (4 percent of the population and 23 percent of the incarcerated -- in Manitoba 16 percent of the population and 71 percent of the incarcerated). The Aboriginal population of Canada also has a high rate of drug and alcohol abuse, and many of the young suffer from FASD (fetal alcohol syndrome disease).

Get the Story:
Marina Cantacuzino: The Legacy of Canada's 'Cultural Genocide' (The Huffington Post 11/18)

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Native students look to break free from residential school era (11/18)

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