All Who Died At Residential Schools Should Be Named, Bodies Located: Report

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, right, hands a copy of the commission's main report on Canada's residential school system to then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, centre, as Assembly of First Nations Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde looks on June 2, 2015.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, right, hands a copy of the commission’s main report on Canada’s residential school system to then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, centre, as Assembly of First Nations Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde looks on June 2, 2015.

By Gloria Galloway | The Globe and Mail

The commission that has spent the past five years trying to learn the truth about abuses of children at the former Indian residential schools says it is time for the names of all of those students who died, and the locations of their burials, to be known.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made public on Tuesday. Its main findings – including the determination that what happened behind the walls of the church-run schools amounted to cultural genocide – were released last spring along with a list of 94 “calls to action” to address ongoing problems. What is being put forward now is thousands of pages of contextual details, historical data and voices of survivors.

One section is devoted to the commission’s assertion that the students who perished in the institutions must be identified and their remains located.

“As a parent, as a family, when you’ve lost somebody, you need to know everything about that loss that you can get your hands on,” Murray Sinclair, the chair of the commission, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “You need to know all that can be disclosed, you need to know why they died, where they died, what they died of, and you need to know as well, where they are buried.”

Justice Sinclair says his commission’s final report is about 2,300,000 words long and presents, in tremendous detail, the post-colonization history of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

More on this story:

Highlights from the report

Witness blanket tells residential school history

“This report is also primarily about residential schools but it has a lot more detailed information to show how residential schools fit into the overall picture of colonialism and oppression – legal, social and political oppression – that went on in Canada from Confederation even to today.”

Among other things, the report discusses the ways child welfare in Canada has failed indigenous people, the disproportionate incarceration of First Nations inmates, and the fact that many Métis survivors of Catholic residential schools are excluded from the settlement that was signed in 2006 with the federal government. And there is also the section on the missing children and the unmarked and untended graves.

Carlie Chase, the executive director of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which was created to raise awareness about the legacy of the residential schools, is a member of the first generation of her family not to attend one of the residential schools.

“We are always reminded that the survivors today were actually brave children and it is heartbreaking to know that thousands of equally brave children did not survive, that their lives were taken too soon. They died at school,” said Ms. Chase. “So we must be as brave as they were and have the courage to acknowledge the hard truth of their deaths. And that truth is we let them down and we have to do better so it never happens again. So we never have to say there was a death toll at school. For their families to begin their healing, the first part of telling the truth is knowing who those children were.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was provided with records of 3,200 students who died at the schools – most from diseases that spread rapidly in crowded dormitories including tuberculosis and influenza, but also by drowning, fires, accidents, suicide and exposure when they tried to run away. But Justice Sinclair believes the real numbers are actually much higher.

“The government claims that archival records were destroyed through floods and through fires. Church records disappeared, they say, for the same reason,” said Justice Sinclair. “So, whatever one thinks of the truthfulness of that, the reality is that those records are not around for us to check.”

But there are ways to get at the information, he said.

It is clear from the data that is available that most of the deaths occurred between 1885 and 1950. Most provinces, during that period, kept records about those who died within their jurisdictions, including their race, their age, their location and their cause of death. If the names of children in those records were matched with the school attendance records, it would be possible to create a more complete list, said Justice Sinclair.

“That is a much bigger task than we were able to accomplish in our period of time and we were around for five years,” he said. So “we have called upon the government to make the funds available for that project to be undertaken and for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation [which recently opened in Winnipeg] to oversee how that will be done.”

The report says that many of the children who died at the schools were buried on the grounds or in nearby plots because the federal government did not want to pay the cost of shipping the body back to the child’s home community. Few of those grave sites were formally recognized by the province or territory, so they have not been maintained.

In addition, schools were often moved and the exact location of the burial sites, in many cases, has been lost over time. The commission recommends that all levels of government, including aboriginal councils, work with school survivors and landowners to find the graves and to erect markers to honour the deceased children.

“Many traditional belief systems say that, without that proper ceremony, the spirit of that person will never get back to where it is that they are supposed to go,” said Justice Sinclair. “So a lot of communities want to be able to conduct those spirit ceremonies for those who died. And they can’t because they don’t know where the body is, they don’t even know whether the person died – at the school or somewhere else.”

http://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/all-who-died-at-residential-schools-should-be-named-bodies-located-report/ar-BBnyu4f?li=AAggv0m


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Truth And Reconciliation Commission Final Report: By The Numbers

Inuit children stand outside a residential school in a photo released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with its final report. (Indian and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada)

Inuit children stand outside a residential school in a photo released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with its final report. (Indian and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada)

CBC News, Posted: Dec 14, 2015

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases its final report Tuesday on the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system.

Here are some numbers and facts contained in the final report of the commission:

6,750 — Statements received by the Truth and Reconciliation from survivors of residential schools, members of their families and other individuals

150,000 — First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students who went to residential schools.

37,951 — Claims made for injuries resulting from physical and sexual abuse in residential schools.

30,939 — Claims resolved for sexual or serious physical abuse in residential schools by the end of 2014.

$2.69 — Compensation in billions for claims resolved by the end of 2014.

3,200 — Documented number of indigenous children who died in residential schools. Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the commission, estimates the number of deaths is much higher.

300 — Communities visited by the commission since 2008.

300 — Child-welfare agencies in Canada operating under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

100 — The period, in years, studied by the inquiry into Canada’s residential school system.

80 — Residential schools in operation across the country in 1930.

7 — Number of languages in which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report will be published: English, French, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwa, Inuktitut, Cree and Dené.

Millions — Number of documents collected by the commission since 2008.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/truth-and-reconciliation-final-report-by-the-numbers-1.3362156?cmp=abfb

Premiers Commit To Commission Recommendations After Meeting With Native Leaders

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley arrives for a meeting of Canadian premiers and national aboriginal leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley arrives for a meeting of Canadian premiers and national aboriginal leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. ANDREW VAUGHAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says Canada’s premiers support all 94 recommendations arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and will work to implement them in their own provinces.

Paul Davis spoke at a closing news conference after meeting with the leaders of national aboriginal organizations in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Wednesday.

Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said progress was made despite what she called a lack of respect from the federal government.

Lavell Harvard said Ottawa should have been a participant, but thanked Manitoba for offering to host a second national round table on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

She also thanked Ontario for agreeing to hold a summit on aboriginal women’s issues.

Perry Bellegarde outside meeting with premiers Premiers Native Leaders 20150715

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, talks with protester Denise Cole, right, at a meeting of Canadian premiers and national aboriginal leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Violence against indigenous women and girls is “a grave violation of human rights,” Lavell Harvard said, condemning the federal government for not attending Wednesday’s meeting.

“It is an insult to the memories of those women and girls that they’re not here,” Lavell Harvard said of the federal government’s absence.

She called it “a slap in the face.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said he was satisfied that real commitments were made by the premiers, and that provinces are taking the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report seriously.

He said it’s all about closing the chasm between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

“That gap is not good for our people. It’s not good for the provinces, and it’s not good for the country. ”

Native Leaders Call For Action, Not More Talk

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

Protesters handed out 1200 informational flyers on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at the Ontario/Manitoba border. The flyers informed the public of the violence taking place in Aboriginal communities and the need for a national inquiry. June 19th 2015. File photo: Red Power Media.

By Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Dawn Lavell Harvard says the time for well-intentioned but often empty talk is over.

The president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, along with other national aboriginal leaders, will step up pressure for action when they meet Wednesday with provincial and territorial premiers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L.

They’re calling for detailed work plans to go with the photo ops and communiques from their yearly sit-down with the Council of the Federation.

“The most pressing concern we have right now in our communities is the ongoing level of violence,” Lavell Harvard said from Ottawa.

She believes provinces should step in as the federal Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuse to call a public inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and girls.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt was among federal officials who attended a national roundtable on the issue last winter. They highlighted justice investments and a five-year, $25-million plan to reduce related violence as proof of action, saying an inquiry isn’t necessary.

“We want to see concrete action,” Lavell Harvard said. “Policing, access to justice, equity and discrimination issues.

“We need to push the provinces to do more.”

The 2011 National Household Survey suggests indigenous women make up 4.3 per cent of the national female population. But the RCMP has said they’re victims in 16 per cent of female homicides and account for 11 per cent of missing women.

The Mounties have reported that almost 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or have vanished since 1980, and that attackers are often known to the victims.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the issue will be front and centre Wednesday.

He also said the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released last month must not gather dust.

“The TRC recommendations and calls to action captured the whole country and the world,” he said in an interview. “We just need to give them life.”

The commission described as “cultural genocide” the suffering borne by generations of aboriginal children in once-mandatory residential schools.

It estimated more than 6,000 boys and girls, about one in 25, died in the institutions. Scores of others endured horrific physical and sexual abuse.

The commission made 94 recommendations toward reconciliation, urging Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing about 55,000 Canadian Inuit, said disproportionate numbers of aboriginal children in provincial care will also be discussed.

“If we could only get the federal government to the table, that would definitely go a long way.”

Harper’s long-standing absence from first ministers’ meetings sends a strong message, Bellegarde said.

“If we’re going to rebuild this country, we need all levels of leadership to be there.”

Provinces need to start hinging resource development on company commitments to consult, employ and share benefits with aboriginal people, Bellegarde said.

Todd Russell, president of the NunatuKavut Community Council, notes the meeting will take place near the $8.6-billion Muskrat Falls hydro development.

His group, representing about 6,000 Inuit-Metis in southern Labrador, says it wasn’t properly consulted and is challenging the project in court.

The Nunatsiavut government has also raised alarms about how potential mercury contamination from flooding could affect Lake Melville, a food source for 2,000 Inuit.

Host Premier Paul Davis said the province reached a major benefits agreement on Muskrat Falls with the Innu Nation.

“I think there is great value in ensuring it happens on a more consistent basis not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country,” he said in an interview.

Davis said the premiers’ working group on aboriginal affairs has been crafting action plans for several matters, including violence against women. Truth and Reconciliation Commission members Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild will speak to the meeting in Labrador about how provinces can respond, he added.

The premiers move to St. John’s for sessions Thursday and Friday, including energy and economic issues, health care, trade and climate change.

The Canadian Press

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.

http://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/5732336-native-leaders-call-for-action-not-more-talk/

Premier’s ’60s Scoop’ Apology Criticized By Manitoba Métis Federation

By Red Power Media, Staff

Manitoba’s Metis Federation President says his people are being left out.

Manitoba’s Metis federation says its people are being left out of an apology — set to happen on Thursday at the legislature — for aboriginal children who were taken from their parents and adopted into white families.

The apology, thought to be the first by a Canadian province, is directed at individuals from the so-called “60s Scoop,” which many see as an extension of Indian residential schools policy.

Premier Greg Selinger said the apology, will acknowledge damage done to those taken from their homes and their culture. Manitoba was one of the provinces most affected, so it is appropriate that it be among the first to apologize, he said.

“It’s an acknowledgment that they did lose contact with their families, their language, their culture,” Selinger told The Canadian Press. “That was an important loss in their life and it needs to be acknowledged. It’s part of the healing process.”

Manitoba’s Metis Federation President David Chartrand said no one from the Manitoba government consulted with the Metis or formally invited him to the event. The Metis were left out of the residential school settlement and it feels like the same thing is happening again, he said.

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, says his people are being left out of an apology for the '60s Scoop.

David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, says his people are being left out of an apology for the ’60s Scoop.

Manitoba appears to be blaming Ottawa for what is known as the ’60s Scoop when it was provincial social workers who seized aboriginal children and placed them with families as far away as the southern United States, Chartrand said.

“It’s the province that took our children. It’s the province that sold our children to the United States and other places. It’s the province that did harm to my families.”

“Clearly we’re not going to let the province get away from this.,” said Chartrand.

Paul McKie, spokesman for Selinger, said numerous aboriginal organizations have been invited to witness the apology. The Manitoba Metis Federation was invited Friday by phone, by email and formally by letter, he said.

The province, along with affected adoptees, has been working on the apology for months, he said.

“Many people, groups and organizations have been invited,” McKie said. “There were informal consultations with many people.”

An apology without a plan and proper consultation with those affected is empty, said Chartrand, who has worked with ’60s Scoop adoptees and their families for years.

“You can’t just say ‘I’m sorry’ and walk away. You did permanent damage here. You tore entire communities apart. Maybe they’re thinking if they say ‘I’m sorry’ that ends my responsibility.”

Grand Chief David Harper, with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak which represents northern First Nations, still remembers children being taken away from his community, never to be seen again. He said he will be there to witness the apology but will also be looking for more.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes by child-welfare services and placed with non-aboriginal families. Many have filed class-action lawsuits in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. Another class-action lawsuit in Ontario is still making its way through the courts.

Residential school survivors have had a formal apology from Ottawa and were able to speak at hearings held by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which released its final report. The ’60s Scoop’ adoptees have been fighting for the same recognition of their experience and a formal apology. 

Source articles:

http://www.vancouversun.com/Manitoba+apologize+aboriginals+taken+from+parents+adopted+into+white+families+Scoop/11131157/story.html

http://globalnews.ca/news/2055457/manitoba-metis-federation-president-criticizes-60s-scoop-apology/

Canada Was Killing Indians, Not Cultures

Residential School survivor Lorna Standingready, left, is comforted during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada closing ceremony in Ottawa last week. | Photo: Reuters

Residential School survivor Lorna Standingready, left, is comforted during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada closing ceremony in Ottawa last week. | Photo: Reuters

By: Dr. Pamela D. Palmater | teleSUR, Published 8 June 2015

In Canada’s residential schools, many Indigenous children were beaten, tortured, raped, medically experimented on, and killed.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) just released its Executive Summary Report on their inquiry into Indian Residential Schools finding that in Canada’s dealings with Indigenous Nations, it had engaged in a form of genocide and made 94 recommendations for action. The TRC’s mandate came from the class action litigation (and subsequent settlement) by survivors of the residential schools who wanted Canadians to have a true understanding of what happened in those schools. The Summary Report represents over six years of historical research, investigation, and the documentation of the stories of over 6,750 survivors. The final report is expected to be at least six volumes.

Indian residential schools were boarding schools created and designed by the federal government to eliminate the “Indian problem” in Canada – not unlike the Indian boarding schools created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the United States. The federal government, in partnership with churches of various denominations (primarily Catholic), apprehended Indigenous children from their communities and forced them to live in residential schools under the guise of civilizing them with education. Instead of receiving an education (most never received more than a grade 6 education), most were starved, beaten, tortured, raped, and medically experimented on. In some schools, upwards of 40 percent of Indigenous children never made it out alive. Nationally, the death rate for these children was 1:25 – higher than the 1:26 death rate for WWII enlistees – and that was war.

While some have characterized the Indian problem as the desire by Canada to erase cultural difference, the reality had far more to do with power and economics. The oft-quoted Duncan Campbell Scott, the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, appears to claim that the objective is one of assimilation: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem … Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.” However, when presented with the alarming death rates in the residential schools by his chief medical officer, Dr. Peter H. Bryce, Scott decided that the deaths of Indian children was in line with departmental objectives which he characterized as “the final solution.”

“Indian children … die at a much higher rate [in residential schools] than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian problem,” said Scott.

So the central question seems to be what exactly was the Indian problem? Was it truly a desire to rid Indians of their cultures – or was it more about eliminating Indians? Canada’s record, considered on the whole, would seem to suggest that the Indian problem was more about Indians refusing to die off, than maintaining different languages and cultures. Colonial governments didn’t issue bounties on Mi’kmaw scalps because of their culture – they did so because Mi’kmaw people refused to give up their land. Canada didn’t forcibly sterilize Indigenous women and girls without their consent to stop them from speaking their languages – they did it to eliminate the population. By the United Nations definition – that is genocide. It doesn’t matter whether Canada ever agrees that its actions amounted to genocide – very few nation states ever admit to committing acts of genocide.

It doesn’t matter whether Canada ever agrees that its actions amounted to genocide – very few nation states ever admit to committing acts of genocide. What happened in residential schools were crimes back then, just as they are today. It was always against colonial and Canadian law to assault, rape, torture, starve, and murder children. Despite the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the federal government, and church officials all knowing what was happening in those schools, everyone with the power to stop it allowed it to continue. That is why residential schools had grave yards instead of playgrounds.

The Indian problem was always about power and economics – the sovereign Indigenous Nations who occupied and controlled the very territories coveted by early colonial governments refused to die off and therefore stood in the way of unfettered land acquisition, settlement, development, and resource extraction. Despite having suffered many deaths in the waves of disease that came from European contact, scalping bounties and various colonial aggressions, Indigenous peoples survived. Indigenous peoples never gave up their sovereignty or their rights and responsibilities over their territories. Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and the refusal to die off has impeded Canada’s attempts at unfettered settlement and development ever since.

Moving forward, the biggest mistake that could come from this report would be for Canadians to historicize what happened. Indian policy is not a sad chapter in our history – it is a lethal reality for Indigenous people today. Today, there are more Indigenous children in state care than during the residential school era. Nationally, there are 30-40,000 children in care and in some provinces, like Manitoba, Indigenous children represent 90 percent of all kids in care.

Canada’s current policy of purposefully underfunding essential human services on Indian reserves like food, water, sanitation, housing, health and education, leads to the premature deaths of Indigenous peoples by 7-20 years. Indigenous peoples are overrepresented in prisons by 10 times the national rate, and the problem is getting worse. In the last decade, the Indigenous inmate population has steadily increased by more than 56 percent. In the last 30 years, there have been over 1,200 cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and little action from Canada to protect them. None of this is because they practice different cultures, but because they are Indians – impediments to unfettered land access, development, and resource extraction.

RELATED: Canada’s Disappeared Indigenous Women

It’s long past the time that Canada live up to the spirit and intent of the treaties signed with Indigenous Nations (now constitutionally protected) and work towardsa new policy which reflects the promises of mutual respect, mutual benefit and mutual protection. The vision of the treaties was always to share these lands. Despite all the horrors of residential schools, Indigenous Nations kept their treaty promises. It’s time for Canada to stop trying to eliminate Indians and work together in peace. A good start would be to implement the recommendations in the TRC report.

Dr. Pamela D. Palmater is an Associate Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Canada-Was-Killing-Indians-Not-Cultures-20150608-0018.html.

PM Harper Said He Opposed UN Declaration Adoption During Meeting With TRC Commissioners

(Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair (left) and APTN host Cheryl McKenzie during an interview Tuesday)

(Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Murray Sinclair (left) and APTN host Cheryl McKenzie during an interview Tuesday)

APTN National News

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Chair Murray Sinclair said Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains unconvinced of the need for Canada to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In an interview with APTN host Cheryl McKenzie, Sinclair said he and the TRC’s other commissioners, Marie Wilson and Wilton Littlechild, met with Harper Tuesday afternoon.

When McKenzie asked if the prime minister expressed any disagreement with the TRC’s recommendations contained in a report released earlier in the day, Sinclair said the prime minister maintained his opposition to adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Well obviously the adoption of UN declaration, which the government just voted down a few weeks ago in the House,” said Sinclair, referring to a private member’s bill from Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

Sinclair said the TRC isn’t necessarily calling for the declaration to be written into law because it would require a more complicated process involving the provinces.

“We have indicated in our report, we think utilizing the (UN declaration) as a framework for reconciliation,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said during the meeting Harper showed he is well versed in the history of residential schools.

“He had things to say about the issues around the evolution of residential schools in the country which led me to believe he is well up on the topic,” he said. “We didn’t agree on some of the (recommendations). He did agree there is an obligation that there be ongoing discourse.”

Sinclair also said Harper needs to read his commission’s report if he’s not yet convinced the Indian residential schools system was a central element in Canada’s policy of cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples.

Sinclair said the report makes a clear case the intention of the schools was to wipe out Indigenous culture.

During question period Tuesday, Harper refused to back the TRC report’s conclusion on cultural genocide. Instead, the prime minister chose to use the words “forced assimilation” when pressed on the issue by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

“I think (Harper) needs to read out report. Our report is pretty clear about what was going on and what was intended,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said it wouldn’t be a large leap for Harper to reach the same conclusion, given the language used in his 2008 apology to residential schools.

“(In the 2008 apology) he acknowledged that the phrase, ‘kill the Indian in the child’ was the intention behind residential schools,” said Sinclair. “It wouldn’t be a leap.”

Sinclair said the commissioners of the TRC also offered to be part of any efforts toward reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

“The conversation really needs to be between the Aboriginal community and the government of Canada and we think we can help that,” said Sinclair.

The TRC released a summary of its final report on Tuesday. The final report will be issued sometime later this year.

http://aptn.ca/news/2015/06/02/pm-harper-said-opposed-un-declaration-adoption-meeting-trc-commissioners/

Truth And Reconciliation: Aboriginal People Conflicted As Commission Wraps Up After 6 Years

Nikamuwin Mianscum, 3, stands with drummers as they lead the Walk for Reconciliation, part of the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Sunday in Ottawa and Gatineau. The commission uncovered horror stories of homemade electric chairs, malnutrition experiments and the deaths of more 6,000 children in residential schools. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Nikamuwin Mianscum, 3, stands with drummers as they lead the Walk for Reconciliation, part of the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Sunday in Ottawa and Gatineau. The commission uncovered horror stories of homemade electric chairs, malnutrition experiments and the deaths of more 6,000 children in residential schools. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

By Connie Walker | CBC News

#MyReconciliationIncludes hashtag shows skepticism many Aboriginal Peoples have

After six years of travelling the country to hear testimony from 7,000 witnesses about their experiences at residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wraps up this week in Ottawa.

The final event kicked off yesterday with thousands of people participating in a reconciliation walk through the nation’s capital. The summary of the commission’s report will be released Tuesday.

“I never, ever envisioned that this would happen, that thousands of people would gather to give expression to the idea that we are … all one,” said Chief Robert Joseph, ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and a member of the National Assembly of First Nations elders council.

“And that includes me, somebody who was so terribly beat up in these residential schools that I felt absolutely worthless, no purpose in my life. And now here I am and I see all this humanity, and I’m inspired to my soul that people care enough to come out and walk with us today. And we walk together.”

When the commission began in June 2010, there were high hopes it would help repair the relationship between aboriginal people and the rest of Canada. However, as the TRC winds down, many seem conflicted about the state of reconciliation in Canada.

About 150,000 children attended residential school over more than 100 years, starting in 1880s until the last school was closed in 1996. Many students as young children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to the schools to live. The commission heard thousands of statements about their experiences, which often included emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Truth Reconciliation Walk 20150531 Ottawa Gatineau

Debbie Stephens holds an eagle feather as she pauses before the start of the walk for reconciliation in Gatineau. About 150,000 children attended residential school over more than 100 years, starting in 1880s until the last school was closed in 1996. (The Canadian Press)

Viv Ketchum, a survivor who travelled to Ottawa to attend the final TRC event, was hopeful after hearing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008, but has since been disappointed by the process.

Vivian Ketchum

Vivian Ketchum, 51, attended Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in northern Ontario starting when she was 5. She came to Ottawa for the final TRC events this week. (CBC)

“I don’t expect much to happen after, I don’t think,” she said. “This is just going to be one final hurrah for us and we’re just going to be placed aside. I think that’s the reality for us [survivors].”

Some of the truths about residential schools uncovered in the last six years include horror stories of homemade electric chairs, malnutrition experiments and the deaths of more 6,000 children.

Justice Murray Sinclair, head of the commission, said that number is likely higher.

“Undoubtedly, the most shocking piece of information that we uncovered was the number of children who died in the schools,” Sinclair said. “The number of children who died was a significant number, and we think that we have not uncovered anywhere near what the total would be because the record keeping around that question was very poor.”

Final report

Sinclair will release a 300-page executive summary of the final report on Tuesday.

“The report itself — just by its size alone — is going to document as full a story of residential schools as has ever been documented in the past. ” Sinclair told CBC News last week.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/truth-and-reconciliation-aboriginal-people-conflicted-as-commission-wraps-up-after-6-years-1.3094753?cmp=abfb

Thousands Attend Walk For Reconciliation In Ottawa

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde (in headdress) and Justice Murray Sinclair (in black suit), TRC commissioner, march during the Walk for Reconciliation, part of the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Sunday, May 31, 2015 in Gatineau, Que. Beginning in the 1870s, over 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were required to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools in an attempt to assimilate them into Canadian society; the last school closed in 1996. Students were prohibited from speaking their own languages, practicing their culture and often experienced physical and sexual abuse. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde (wearing a traditional headdress) and Justice Murray Sinclair (in front of him wearing sunglasses in a black suit) took part in the walk on Sunday. (The Canadian Press)

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Thousands including; residential school survivors, along with their friends, family and supporters, marched through Ottawa on Sunday in the name of reconciliation and healing.

The march was part of the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

“It’s a dark chapter in Canada’s history, no question. It was cultural genocide,” said National Chief Perry Bellegarde, head of the Assembly of First Nations, who took part in the walk.

Led by drummers, the marchers carried banners and flags. Some held photos of loved ones who had experienced the schools, and other clasped the hands of children or grandchildren.

VIDEO: A dance and song in honour of all Residential School Survivors.

The crowd – marching in solidarity with the survivors walked crossed the Ottawa River along the Portage Bridge, passed Parliament Hill and the National War Memorial, and ended at Ottawa City Hall on Elgin Street.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who addressed the crowd at City Hall, said about 7,000 people made the walk. Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the TRC, estimated that about 10,000 people showed up.

Closing ceremonies end Wednesday

Sunday’s walk was one of many events taking place from Sunday to Wednesday as part of a closing ceremony for the TRC.

The TRC prepares to release its final report on June 2.

Final report will be massive:

A 300-page summary of the final TRC report will be released as part of the final event. The full final report will include 6 volumes and more than 2 million words, as well as a volume with excerpts from survivors’ testimony.

Does Canada Have Courage To Call What They Did To Indigenous Peoples Genocide?

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. ERIC LONG / NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. ERIC LONG / NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

By Dan Lett

Commission’s report will offer stark evidence

In the elegant confines of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the bias is pretty clear for all to see.

The content in this government-run facility is robustly pro-Indian rights and unabashedly political. Elaborate displays of cultural art and culture are laid alongside shocking and graphic descriptions of seminal legal battles involving, and the atrocities committed against, indigenous peoples in the U.S.

Most striking is the frequent use of a quote from former U.S. Supreme Court justice Hugo Black who, in 1960, argued in a minority opinion on a treaty rights case that “Great nations, like great men, should keep their word.” That is a stark missive to a government from a government-run museum.

What you will not find in this facility is the word “genocide.” It is not completely absent; the museum and its website both reference activists, academics and other supporters who believe American Indians were the victims of a state-sponsored genocide. The U.S. government, however, has declined to officially adopt the label.

That is not, in and of itself, an unusual condition. Nation states often struggle to accept an incident in their history meets the criteria of a genocide. Most acknowledged genocides come as the result of legal decisions, either from a domestic or international court. In the absence of those decisions, voluntary self-labelling is very rare.

Canada, however, could find itself in the rare position of becoming one of only a handful of nations to admit to a historic genocide when the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is tabled June 2.

Struck as part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement between the federal government and victims, the commission has spent the last five years collecting evidence on the atrocities committed in residential schools.

It is not within the mandate of the commission to formally attach the term genocide to residential schools. That would come from a court or from Parliament. However, that has not stopped Justice Murray Sinclair, a judge from Manitoba and chairman of the TRC, from reaching his own conclusions.

In interviews and published arguments, Sinclair makes it clear residential schools were part of a process of aggressive colonization of aboriginal people. And that this process is consistent with international legal definitions of genocide.

Sinclair’s argument will be bolstered by new, stark details of just how badly we treated aboriginal children sent to residential schools.

The broader Canadian public has always conceded the schools tried to eradicate aboriginal culture. And that some of the children were victims of sexual and physical abuse so severe, some died. At the outset of the TRC, it was believed about 4,000 of the 150,000 children who went through the residential school system died from mistreatment of one form or another.

However, as the TRC has gone through its work, other, more troubling incidents have been revealed, some by the commission itself and others by academics doing parallel research into Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people.

Deadly tuberculosis outbreaks in overcrowded school dormitories. Medical experiments on malnourished aboriginal children, who were kept in a state of starvation to serve the needs of researchers. Dozens of unexplained, unmarked graves of aboriginal children near a residential school in Brandon.

The total number of aboriginal children who died while in the care of a residential school is expected to rise exponentially when the TRC tables its final report. And that alone should create an opportunity for a national debate about whether it’s time to use the term genocide to describe what went on.

Whether the current Conservative government accepts that opportunity is unclear. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to aboriginal people for their treatment in residential schools and offered financial compensation. In addition, Harper launched the TRC to look more deeply into the reality of residential schools.

There will be those who will argue Ottawa has done enough to address this issue and any debate over labelling residential schools a genocide is gratuitous. They will be wrong.

Whether or not the prime minister had this in mind when he created the TRC, the final report will serve as an indictment of Canada’s role in residential schools and provide the evidence necessary to back up a charge of genocide.

The politics of the TRC report is difficult to anticipate. The country is still keenly aware of concerns surrounding missing and murdered aboriginal women and the calls for a national inquiry.

Those calls have already become fodder for campaigning parties. Will the TRC report itself become an election issue this fall?

Regardless of how politicians wade into the issue, we should be confident that for the first time in our history, we will know the full truth about residential schools. What we choose to do with that information will either define us as a courageous nation or a cowardly one.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press story, Do we have courage to call what we did to natives genocide? by Dan Lett, May 21, 2015