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Mary Annette Pember: 'Cultural genocide' at residential schools

Residential school survivors gathered for the release of the final report in Ottawa. Photo from Truth and Reconciliation Commission / Twitter

Mary Annette Pember reports from an emotional ceremony for the release of the findings and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada:
It was a long time coming, but the words that residential school survivors and their loved ones had long awaited were finally spoken.

“Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, Ojibwe, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and presented its official findings about Canada’s residential schools program on June 2. The packed Delta Ottawa hotel ballroom audience erupted into cheers and applause as people rose to their feet when TRC Chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, Ojibway, presented the panel’s findings.

“It has come full circle,” noted Eugene Cardinal of the Cree Nation.

YouTube: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations
Cardinal’s tone betrayed a tinge of irony. An Indian residential school survivor, he observed that the final gathering of the TRC, convened as one component of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, was taking place in Ottawa, the very place where the original policies intended to ‘kill the Indian to save the man’ had been created more than 100 years ago.

The crowd of mostly aboriginal people heartily approved the TRC’s summary version of a multi-volume report. Six years in the making, the report documents widespread physical and sexual abuses at government- and church-run residential schools from 1883 until 1998.

“This has been a difficult, inspiring and very painful journey for all of us,” Sinclair said. “The residential school experience is clearly one of the darkest, most troubling chapters in our collective history—the period from Confederation until the decision to close residential schools was taken in this country in 1969.”

Emotion ran high in the audience, swinging from shouts of jubilation to cries of anguish as some broke down in tears when Sinclair described the organization’s work.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: "Cultural Genocide," Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls Residential Schools (Indian Country Today 6/3)

Also Today:
Canada’s Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was ‘Cultural Genocide,’ Report Finds (The New York Times 6/3)
Report: Schools for Canada First Nations ‘cultural genocide’ (AP 6/3)
Education 'only way forward,' says David Johnston as TRC ends (CBC 6/3)
Truth and Reconciliation report brings calls for action, not words (CBC 6/2)
Stephen Harper defends aboriginal affairs record in wake of residential schools report (CBC 6/2)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission urges Canada to confront 'cultural genocide' of residential schools (CBC 6/2)
Truth and Reconciliation chair urges Canada to adopt UN declaration on Indigenous Peoples (CBC 6/1)

Related Stories:
Mary Annette Pember: Finding truth and reconciliation in Canada (6/2)
Michael Champagne: We are all victims of residential school era (6/2)

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