11 Dec 2010

Canadian residential school Truth Commission begins to address over a century of child abuse, thousands of children still missing

NOTE: The following 7 articles are from CBC News from June 14 - 17, 2010
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CBC - Canada June 14, 2010

Residential schools shaped bad parents: survivors


Many Indian residential school survivors blame the experience for making them bad parents.

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission prepares for its first national event this week in Winnipeg, former students say they were denied parental love and role models and that has affected their own children.

"I brought them up in a pretty horrible way — didn't know how to parent, didn't know how to show love," said Peguis First Nation elder Josie Bear.

She was exposed to severe discipline as a student in residential schools. As a result, she treated her own children much the same, she said.

Daphne Thomas, an elder and healer on Peguis First Nation — Manitoba's largest reserve with about 7,200 residents — said her early days of parenting were "horrible" because of her experience in those schools.

"It has affected my life and the lives of my children and that's what I feel most guilty about still to this day, because of the way I parented my children," she said.
Taken from families

About 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in more than 130 residential schools across Canada from the late 1870s until the last school closed in 1996.

The schools were government-funded and meant to force the assimilation of young aboriginal people into European-Canadian society.

Many students were forbidden to speak their native language or otherwise engage in their culture at the schools, which were run by churches.

Some were physically, sexually and psychologically abused while at the schools.

Elders on First Nations feel that experience has contributed to the high number of children being turned over to foster care.

According to Manitoba's child-welfare system, as many as 70 per cent of children in care are aboriginal, though they make up only about 20 per cent of the province's child population.

"I have a son that is constantly in and out of jail. Why? Because I was a crappy father," said Ray Mason, a residential school survivor and president of the National Residential School Survivors' Society.

One of the goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is to help survivors as well as their children and grandchildren heal from the effects of residential schools.

The national event, at The Forks national historical site from June 16 to 19, is expected to bring in 5,000 to 8,000 survivors and their families, along with former school staff and others who were affected by the experience.

It will be the first of seven such events to be held across the country.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/14/mb-residential-school-parents-manitoba.html

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CBC - Canada June 15, 2010

Native truth commission to expose abuses

National hearings begin Wednesday in Winnipeg


Manitoba deputy premier Eric Robinson knows first-hand what it meant to be a student at an Indian residential school.

He counts himself lucky he spent only three years at the Jack River School in Norway House, Man., though he was there long enough to be sexually abused by a priest.

"I was one of the fortunate ones."

His parents, he says, were not so lucky.

"My father was a student at one of these places, went there for seven or eight years, never learned anything more than how to write his name, but he sure became a good farmhand.

"My mother went ... at the age of three. She came out when she was 18 to a world of alcoholism and drug abuse and she died alone on the streets of Winnipeg at the age of 31 when I was 11 years old."
Commission part of settlement

Robinson will be one of many survivors taking part Wednesday in the first national hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in Winnipeg, when it begins to expose and deal with the pain and suffering caused by residential schools.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend the government- and church-run schools over much of the last century. The last one closed outside Regina in 1996 and about 85,000 former students are still living.

The $60-million commission was part of a landmark deal reached with residential school survivors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government and the churches.

It's getting a late start after stumbling out of the blocks, but Robinson says that doesn't matter because its work is important and all Canadians need to know what happened.

Aboriginal leaders say it's a massive undertaking and one that the commission alone probably can't accomplish.

"We don't know exactly where this is going to go," said Wayne Spear of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, set up more than 10 years ago to provide direct help to residential school survivors.

"It depends on what people have to say and the directions participants take."

It's important that it produce something lasting and meaningful, Spear said. His foundation's funding will run out and it will finish its work in 2012, but up to March it was running 135 projects and 12 healing centres across the country.
1st attempt fumbles

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was relaunched almost exactly a year ago under Murray Sinclair, the first member of a Manitoba First Nation to become a judge.

Its work was stalled when its first leader, Ontario Appeal Court Justice Harry LaForme, quit after accusing his co-commissioners of undermining his authority. Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley also resigned.

The commissioners couldn't agree whether reconciliation or historical documentation should be at the heart of their mandate.

Ottawa extended the commission's timeline by one year to make up for the delays. It plans seven national meetings to collect stories from former students and is expected to finish its work by 2014.

Sinclair is an old hand at government-sponsored inquiries. Two decades ago he was co-author of a voluminous two-part report on how aboriginal people are mistreated by the justice system in Manitoba.

He also headed an investigation into pediatric heart deaths at Winnipeg Children's Hospital in 1994.

Sinclair is working with the aid of co-commissioners Marie Wilson, a former CBC North executive, and Wilton (Willie) Littlechild, a lawyer, former MP and Alberta vice-chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Unhappiness over cost

There are those in the survivor community who remain skeptical of the commission's work and resent the use of money they say should be going directly to them.

Tony Cote, 75, says he never forgot the bitterness of his experience at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

"There was no love, no care, no nothing in those places ... all we ever did was pray and sing hymns. We never did really learn anything."

He is afraid money is being wasted on bureaucratic things such as the commission and offices set up to aid survivors.

"They're all drawing good wages. Us survivors are still suffering."

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/15/man-trc-eric-robinson-background.html

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CBC - Canada June 15, 2010

Native truth commission gets volunteer support


More than 500 Winnipeggers are preparing to donate their time to help out at national Truth and Reconciliation Commission events over the next few days.

The event, which will take place at The Forks national historical site June 16-19 in Winnipeg, is expected to bring in 5,000 to 8,000 survivors and their families, along with former school staff and others who were affected by the experience. It will be the first of seven such events to be held across the country.

The reasons for helping out are as individual as the volunteer.

Bob Gilbert, a pastor at an inner city church and drop-in centre, says he sees the fallout from the horrors of residential schooling on a daily basis.

"I've heard horrendous stories of abuse — physical, sexual, emotional abuse," he said, adding that volunteering as a chaplain at the event makes him feel like he's part of the healing process.

At Gordon Bell High School in Winnipeg, students say they are excited about helping out.

"This is probably like one of the biggest things I've ever done," said Grade 10 student Sheila Linklater, 17, who said her whole family was scarred by the residential school experience.

"It hurts, you know, to hear what my family went through," she said. "Some of them got past it, some of them didn't, but you know it changed them."

Jennifer Wood at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says people have volunteered for everything from driving to cooking to providing a listening ear. What is especially heartening, she said, is the fact students are among those who have signed on.

"This is history in the making, so when students are getting involved, it really it really is a form of reconciliation and healing," Wood said.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/15/man-truth-volunteers.html

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CBC - Canada June 16, 2010

Native healing hearings open in Winnipeg


Emotions are expected to be running high Wednesday as thousands of aboriginal residential school survivors meet in Winnipeg for the first national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Residential school students and their families, former school staff and others affected by the experience are meeting at The Forks national historical site from Wednesday through Saturday. It is the first of seven events across the country to collect stories from former students, ranging from good memories to horrific accounts of physical and sexual abuse.

The gathering is a follow-up to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement reached in 2006. That gave roughly 80,000 former students about $1.9 billion in compensation, and it also set up a forum for their stories to be heard and recorded.
Sunrise ceremony

The event got underway at dawn with the lighting of a sacred fire at Oodena Celebration Circle, in a gathering that concluded with the Lord's Prayer and a request that everyone greet each other with smiles.

Aboriginal prayers and languages could be heard alongside Christian prayers in French and English as people swayed to the sounds of drums.

Later in the morning, at The Forks Market Plaza, a pipe ceremony was held along with a welcome from the Truth and Reconciliation commissioners, including chairman Justice Murray Sinclair, who has relatives who are residential school survivors from Manitoba.

Oodena, a Cree word meaning "centre of the city," is a site at The Forks that pays homage to 6,000 years of Aboriginal Peoples in the area.

The Forks, at the junction of the Assiniboine River and Red River, is a historical gathering place.

Michelle Bellegard, an aboriginal community crisis co-ordinator from Regina who is among hundreds of health staff sent to Winnipeg, expects the event will trigger emotions. "In past conferences and stuff, there was a lot of traumatization and other people facing their issues and talking about them," she said.
More than a century of abuse

About 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in more than 130 residential schools across Canada from the late 1870s until the last school closed in 1996.

The schools were government-funded and meant to force the assimilation of young aboriginal people into European-Canadian society. Many students were forbidden to speak their native languages or otherwise engage in their culture at the schools, which were run by churches. Some were physically, sexually and psychologically abused at the schools.

Ted Quewezance, an advocate for former students in Saskatchewan, agrees that disclosing the past can be extremely distressing. "I know survivors that were sober for 30, 40 years, and they're out drinking today because of the lack of preparedness in regards to dealing with the issues of the residential schools," he said.

Quewezance has spent the past few days in Winnipeg training for his role as a Health Canada support worker. He said it is critical that support for survivors continues after this week's event.
Public invited

The commission has set up tents where the public can learn about residential schools. As well, a variety of performances and other programming is scheduled at venues throughout the site. The Winnipeg Art Gallery will host an exhibit and the Manitoba Theatre for Young People will feature a world premiere by playwright Ian Ross.


Musicians including Blue Rodeo and Buffy Sainte-Marie will stage free concerts, beginning Wednesday evening.

Sainte-Marie believes the national event will be helpful for survivors, and she plans to sing songs that she hopes will highlight the residential schools issue.

"It's never going to be fixed but it can be lots better for everybody who was hurt in that way," she said. "Plus, it can help the perpetrators and it can help all of us who care."

Sainte-Marie says what bothers her most are the children that were shipped off to residential schools and never came home. "The graveyards around those schools are full of little kids — dead little kids that nobody even knew what happened to them, you know?"

The commission plans to try to find out what happened to missing children but this week's event is about the survivors, and getting their experiences on record.

Derek Sanderson, a Métis who will be among more than 600 volunteers helping at events this week, hopes many non-aboriginal people will come out. "It's all about recognition, and if every culture gets together to work on the problems that lie from the past, then the healing will begin," he said. "That's my belief."

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/06/16/truth-reconciliation-commission-opening.html

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CBC - Canada June 16, 2010

Residential school stories move from shadows

Truth 'will heal us all,' commission chairman says


The head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools says survivors' stories will no longer be relegated to the sidelines of Canadian history.

Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair says the commission will enable aboriginal people to tell what happened to them at the schools.

"We are going to be witnesses to something that has never taken place before in this country. We are going to see things, to hear things, and to feel things that have never been witnessed before," Sinclair told hundreds of people who gathered Wednesday morning at The Forks national historic site in Winnipeg.

"Sadly, the Indian residential schools story, generally speaking, has been relegated to the sidelines of Canadian history and treated as having little bearing upon today's society," he said.

"There are a vast number of people in this country with little or no knowledge of Indian residential schools and the impact that those schools have had on aboriginal people and on Canada.

"It's high time we put this issue to bed."

The commission's national public hearing in Winnipeg, running from Wednesday through Saturday, is the first of seven events across the country to collect stories from former students, ranging from good memories to horrific accounts of physical and sexual abuse.
Dawn of a new day

Ceremonies began at dawn with the lighting of a ceremonial fire, a pipe ceremony and drum songs. "They brought such a feeling of energy and spirit and respect to the activities of the morning that I'm hoping that we can carry that forward, not only over the next four days but for the next four years as we continue the work of the commission," said Sinclair, who was Manitoba's first aboriginal judge.

It is expected that more than 5,000 people, including former students, leaders of aboriginal organizations, church groups and members of the general public, will attend the event during its four days.

No one will be forced to speak of abuse suffered at the schools, but if survivors choose to come forward they will have the commission's full attention, Sinclair said.

"For many of those who will be with us, this will be the first time that they will speak of these things. We will honour their words. We will respect them," he said.

"To all those who wish to share their experience with us, I promise you this: if you have something to tell, we will hear you. You will not be questioned; you will not be asked to prove anything. You do not have to share anything that you do not wish to share."
He said he hopes the event will help to explain the great divide that remains between aboriginals and the rest of the country.

"And it will explain why we see such disparity within so many of our communities," he said.

"I hope that the time will come in your lives when you can look back on this day and say this was an important day in the way that things have evolved in this country," Sinclair said.

"We are doing these things here today, and for the rest of this week, and for the term of the commission for one simple reason — the truth eventually will heal us all.

"At the end of our four days here, we will all go home having moved a step closer to harmony and respect, a step closer to reconciliation."
Opportunity fading

The opportunity to have residential school survivors share their stories is fading, Sinclair said.

"With each passing day, we lose another opportunity with the loss of an Indian residential school survivor. Within a generation, the reality is that we will lose all of them," he said, adding the opportunity is not limited to former students.

"We know that there are former school employees, descendants of survivors, church officials, all of whom have experience that we need to hear as well and to record. We are here to listen to anyone who has been impacted by the Indian residential school legacy.

"Others, though, we acknowledge, have chosen and will continue to choose to remain silent. we respect that too," Sinclair said.

Many others wonder how their experiences are going to be helpful to anyone. It needs to be said that whatever what happened to you, it is an experience worth telling, bad, funny, or sad. It has the strength to educate and to heal.

"We owe that to our children and to our grandchildren."
Indian Act to be repealed

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl also spoke at the opening and said the government plans to repeal the section of the Indian Act that allowed aboriginal children to be removed from their homes and sent to residential schools in the first place.

"This will be done in close collaboration with First Nation organizations in the country," he said. "This gesture of closure and reconciliation will reinforce our government's unwavering commitment to establish a new relationship with aboriginal people."

A cheer arose from the crowd upon hearing Strahl's announcement.

He also said it's important to make sure that First Nations education is reformed and strengthened so as to improve aboriginal high school graduation rates.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the government and church-run schools over much of the last century. The last one closed outside Regina in 1996. About 85,000 former students are still alive.

The $60-million TRC, meant to expose and expiate the pain and suffering caused by residential schools, was part of a landmark deal reached with survivors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa and the churches.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/16/mb-truth-reconciliation-event-winnipeg.html

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CBC - Canada June 16, 2010

Boy, 11, slams residential schools legacy


An 11-year-old boy stole the spotlight at the opening day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings into the tragedy of Canada's residential schools.

Wanekia Morning Star Cooke, who turned up for ceremonies at The Forks in Winnipeg on Wednesday, told CBC News that members of his family still suffer from the aftershocks the federal government's former policies had on his grandparents and elders.

Cooke is a former ward of the child-welfare system — a system he says continues to remove children from their homes and places them in care where they are sometimes subjected to abuse.

In Manitoba, recent data from the provincial children's advocate shows there are more kids in state care than ever before, most of them spread across a number of regional child-welfare authorities throughout the province.

"When I was a baby, like two years old, I was taken away from my Mom to a foster home," Cooke said. "And still nothing has changed. They might do something today for residential schools but nothing's changed.

"Well, some kids are still in foster homes, still kids are still being treated bad and you cannot take away what happen to those people that went to residential schools," he said.

Cooke wondered why the government wanted residential schools to exist in the first place, given their legacy of damage and trauma.

"That doesn't, what you call, make sense — like why would they do that?" Cooke said. "And still, still, still today, our grandfathers and grandmothers — our elders — are still sad about what happened," he said.

"I want a good explanation why all our elders went to residential schools."
Stories note loss of language

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend the government and church-run schools over much of the last century. The last one closed outside Regina in 1996. About 85,000 former students are still alive.

The $60-million truth commission, meant to expose and expiate the pain and suffering caused by the policy, was part of a landmark deal reached with survivors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa and the churches that ran the schools.

Others also shared their experiences — some in private, some in public — with those at the commission charged with recording their stories for a national public archive.

Robert Joseph, from British Columbia, told the commission he was sexually abused by two people as a young student. He said he used to hide under his blankets and dream about his family, whom he was not allowed to see.

Leanne Sleigh, from Alberta, told the commission she felt worthless after attending a residential school where she was sexually abused.

Mary Simon, head of Canada's largest Inuit group, said she was made to feel ashamed of her culture at a day school in northern Quebec. She said she had her hand strapped whenever she spoke her language.
Healing and forgiveness

While many spoke of their trauma and anger toward the government and those who ran the schools, others, such as Rev. Guy Lavallee from St. Laurent, Man., spoke of the need for healing and forgiveness.

Lavallee, a Catholic priest who is Métis, said he understands why people are upset.

"I think that animosity has been in the minds [and] hearts of survivors for many years now," he said. "They have the opportunity to express themselves fully here."

All Canadians need to take part in the commission's work, he said.

It is expected that more than 5,000 people, including former students, leaders of aboriginal organizations, church groups and members of the general public will attend the event during its four days in Winnipeg.

The commission has the ability to record as many as 600 statements from survivors during its time in the city.

By noon Wednesday, about 50 people had given one.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/16/man-truh-reconcilation-commission-foster-care.html

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CBC - Canada June 17, 2010

Truth commission protester calls process 'fraudulent'

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard from residential school survivors on the second of four days of hearings in Winnipeg Thursday, one woman criticized the commission for not allowing the people testifying to name names.

Louise Halama has been handing out pamphlets at The Forks national historic site, where the commission's first national event is being held June 16-19.

The pamphlets question the legitimacy of a truth and reconciliation process that doesn't allow people to identify the people who mistreated them, calling the process "fraudulent."

The hearings are intended as an opportunity for former students, staff and others whose lives have been affected by the residential school system that existed in Canada for more than 100 years to talk about the experience publicly.

The event is the first of seven planned across the country.

About 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in more than 130 government-funded, church-run schools across Canada from the late 1870s until the last school closed in 1996.

The schools were meant to force the assimilation of young aboriginal people into European-Canadian society. Many students were forbidden to speak their native languages or otherwise engage in their culture at the schools.

Some were physically, sexually and psychologically abused at the schools.

No names named at public hearings

The commission, which was set up in 2008 but only began operating this year, has asked survivors who are telling their stories not to name those who have abused them.

If they do, the public will be barred from the tent where the stories are being heard.

If a story is being told in a private setting and being recorded, the names of any alleged abusers will not be made public.

The only exception is if the person has already been convicted of committing that abuse.

The commission says that was agreed to by former students ahead of the hearings.

"So far … people have been very respectful of that and, actually, in a lot of the private statements, too. We don't find that it's a major issue at all," said Ry Moran, director of statement gathering for the commission.

If former students have knowledge of specific criminal offences committed against them or others, they should go to police, said Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, who attended the launch of the hearings on Wednesday.

He said the commission's rules were created for good reason.

"This is not a court of law," he said. "It's not intended to be. But certainly, if people have evidence of criminal activity they want to bring forward, they should bring it to the proper authorities."

Halama isn't satisfied with that and is forming a new group for survivors, with a first meeting scheduled to take place later this month.
Concert kicks off 4-day event

The first day of hearings Wednesday began with stories and drumming and ended with song. "We are doing these things here today and for the rest of this week and for the term of the commission for one simple reason: the truth eventually will heal us all," Justice Murray Sinclair, the Manitoba judge who is chairing the commission, told a crowd of several hundred people during his opening address.

"Our goal is to lay the groundwork that will help us close the divide between aboriginal people and the rest of Canadians."

The day concluded with a free concert that included performances by Blue Rodeo, Joey Stylez and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Residential school survivor Lyle Wasteste said he found Sainte-Marie's performance of a song about residential schools especially moving.

"It's good to know we're all not alone," he said.

Another free concert will take place Friday.

It is expected that more than 5,000 people, including former students, leaders of aboriginal organizations, church groups and members of the public, will attend the hearings over the course of four days.

This article was found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/06/17/mb-truth-reconciliation-fraudulent-protestor-winnipeg.html


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