Canada | Education | National

Mary Annette Pember: Finding truth and reconciliation in Canada

YouTube: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Closing Event

Mary Annette Pember reports on the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, focusing on the legacy of the residential school era in Canada:
More than 7,000 walkers thronged through the streets of Ottawa on May 31 in a show of reconciliation and unity as the five-year investigation into the residential school era of Canada began coming to a close.

The Walk began four days of events marking the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s;(TRC) work that began in 2009. The TRC was formed as a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2007, the largest class action in Canadian history, when former students of Indian residential schools settled out of court with the federal government and four national churches. The commission’s mandate has been to gather written and oral history of residential schools and survivors as well as work toward reconciliation between survivors and Canada.

Indian Residential Schools date back to the1840s. The policy behind the government-funded, church-run schools attempted to “kill the Indian in the child.” Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, with the last one closing in 1996.

YouTube: Walk for Reconciliation
More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. Today, there are an estimated 80,000 former students still living.

According to Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC, up to 6,000 aboriginal children died in the Canadian residential school system.

"We think that we have not uncovered anywhere near what the total would be because the record keeping around that question was very poor," Sinclair told Rosemary Barton of CBC's Power & Politics. "You would have thought they would have concentrated more on keeping track."

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: Bearing Witness: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation March Draws Thousands to Ottawa Streets (Indian Country Today 6/1)

Join the Conversation