28 Feb 2011

Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations

rabble.ca - Canada February 18, 2011

Confronting the hidden legacy of residential schools

by Noreen Mae Ritsema

In an attempt to discuss the impact of residential schools on the families of survivors and strategies for the future, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opening a national intergenerational conference next week in Winnipeg. It is the first intergenerational event on the issue that is First Nations-led.

Speakers and attendees are expected from across the country to attend workshops from Feb. 22 to 24 on the state of living for First Nations, looking at subjects including prison populations, school dropout rates, gang membership and substance addiction, and how these problems have the single thread of residential schools running through them. The importance of healing and the opportunities for justice are also to be discussed.

The fallout left by the schools has scarred generations of First Nations peoples, and Joanne Henry, executive director of the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools(CAIRS) in Whitehorse, Yukon, has witnessed this firsthand in her work with survivors.

"The legacy of the schools is over 50 years, we've got generations upon generations of residential school history that we have to heal from. Our parents weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents. Therefore, we weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents either," said Ms. Henry, in an interview with rabble.ca.

Dedicated to helping the healing incurred this type of historical trauma, Dr. Eduardo Duran, a clinical psychologist and author of The Soul Wound explains that he has found a clear relationship between residential schools and trauma. He is a keynote speaker at the conference.

"It is well known that the boarding school model was developed in order to extricate culture from Native people. The manner in which this was done was violent and thus traumatic... If trauma is not grieved and healed, this is passed on to the children and their children. This transmission can be through behavior patterns, spiritually and genetically."

Ms. Henry reports seeing increased addiction issues with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement because survivors have been recounting their school experiences more frequently in recent years.

"There is a lot of alcohol and drug addiction and it seems to have come out a lot more with the CEP [common experience payment] and more with the IAP [independent assessment process] where you actually talk about your experience in residential school," she said.

"I know one lady, in particular, she did not drink for over 30 years and when she did her IAP she started. So it has a devastating effect. It's not a simple thing to go through. For support afterwards, you can go for counseling, but to actually have a support system in place -- there is nothing like that."

Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, is another speaker at the conference. In conversation, he explains how addiction works. "Addiction is always a response to deep emotional pain, to trauma. It's an attempt to soothe the pain of trauma. The residential school traumatized not only individuals but several consecutive generations; in fact, it traumatized an entire people. When that happens, abuse becomes endemic and is passed on from one generation to the next. As abuse is passed on, so is addiction."

When facing an addiction, Dr. Maté, explains that the first action a person must take actually consists of three steps that must be taken together, a message he wants to discuss at the conference.

"Addicted people must have the courage to accept that they are addicted, that their lives are out of control and that their addiction has multiple negative consequences for themselves and for people close to them. But they also need to recognize at the same time that it's not their fault, it's nothing they chose deliberately but was their way of coping with stress and deep emotional pain," he said.

"And finally, they need to own the problem -- while it's not their fault, it is their responsibility. That is, no matter what the cause of the addiction, only the addicted human being can take responsibility for liberating themselves from its chains."

Western medicine has not widely acknowledged the role of historical trauma, such as the residential school legacy, in relation to illness, and healing from historical trauma has been slow.

Dr. Duran said that without understanding, there is no validation for the pain that people feel.

"In most Western diagnostic procedures the patient is pathologized and their historical context is ignored for the most part. What this tells the person is that they are sick and defective, which can then become a form of identity that takes over their lives."

This points to why The Hidden Legacy conference can have such a positive impact.

"There is strength in numbers, there is power is recognizing that one is not alone, in seeing that the problem is a historical one whose consequences need to be confronted by mutual support and by a common struggle to gain justice. And there is relief in hearing the experience of other people, in telling one's own story, and in learning from one another's strengths and successes," says Dr. Maté.

Joanne Henry also sees the strength in such a gathering. "Anything that deals with residential schools, if we're given the time and the courtesy to look into it and get learning tools from it, will help residential school survivors and be beneficial."

CAIRS, a community resource for residential school survivors in Whitehorse, can be reached at 1-867-667-2247.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is an intern with rabble.ca.

This article was found at:



Edmonton mural celebrates Catholic bishop's role in the horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools

No easy road to recovery for survivors of clergy abuse, even with settlement

Canadian Indian residential school hearings identify thousands of abusers including some students who were also abused

Survivors of Indian residential schools need to tell their stories to restore self-worth after trauma of abuse

A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

Canadian Truth Commission investigates fate of thousands of aboriginal children who died in mysterious circumstances

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

Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize

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  1. First Nations children still taken from parents

    Analysis finds more First Nations children in care than at height of residential school system

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/08/02/pol-first-nations-kids.html [excerpt below]

    After decades of wrestling with the impact of the residential school system -- and then with the "Sixties Scoop" that placed so many aboriginal children in non-aboriginal homes -- First Nations are now facing another tragedy of lost children in the new millennium.

    There are more First Nations children in care right now than at the height of the residential school system. That system was a national disgrace that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize for its catastrophic impact on natives. Instead of being at home with their parents, brothers and sisters, tens of thousands of First Nations children are in foster homes, staying with distant relatives or living in institutions.

    "It's a culmination of decades worth of social ills," Beaucage says. A disheartening mix of poverty, addiction, history and politics has conspired to separate First Nations children from their parents.

    Researchers aren't certain how many native kids are no longer living with their parents. A major study in 2005 pegged the number at 27,500. Since then, provincial and federal data as well as empirical reports suggest the numbers have risen. That's easily double the size of the cohort forced away from their homes and into residential schools during the late 1940s and 50s -- a brutal period of Canada's history that still haunts First Nations families.

    There's no question native children dominate the child welfare system. Former auditor general Sheila Fraser estimated First Nations children were eight times more likely to be in care than other Canadian kids. She pointed out that in British Columbia, of all the children in care, about half are aboriginal -- even though aboriginals are only about eight per cent of the population.

    Beaucage's report says aboriginal people make up about two per cent of the population, but between 10 to 20 per cent of the children in care. "Given the data I've had a chance to see, if anything, it's an underestimation," said Nico Trocme, director of McGill University's Centre for Research on Children and Families.

    "It's getting harder to be a parent in these communities."
    Expert after expert recognizes that family dysfunction is more broadly rooted in poverty, poor health and the oppressive legacy of the residential school system that robbed the parents of first-hand knowledge of how to raise a family.

    "The simplest reason why, the most important reason why, is that these children are living in communities where families are facing enormous hardships," says McGill's Trocme. "The supports to bring up kids just aren't there."

    A child at risk often comes from a home that is over-crowded, with up to four people to a sparse room. The home may not have clean drinking water. It may have mould or boarded-up windows as the house falls into disrepair. The parents are often not there, or not paying attention.

    Instead, they're in their own cycle of trouble, often related to addictions. Or they have not developed the social skills or parenting skills they need to deal with a precarious situation. ...

  2. Victims of residential schools have until Monday to file for settlement money

    Alberni Valley Times September 15, 2011

    Any former residential school students who have not yet filed for compensation under the Common Experience Payment Program have until Monday, Sept. 19 to get their applications in. Successful applicants can get $10,000 for the first year or part of a year that they lived at one of the schools, plus $3,000 for each year after that.

    The Quu?asa office on Argyle Street, set up by the Nuu-chahnulth Tribal Council, has been working for several years to get the word out about the program, and helping applicants fill out forms and assemble documentation. "I would encourage people who haven't filed to come forward, so we can get the applications in," Quu?asa support worker Richard Watts said. "A lot of people still haven't applied, either because they didn't hear about it or didn't want to bother. Some people just wanted to forget the whole thing, because it was too traumatic."

    The Common Experience Payment is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, signed in November, 2005. The federal government set aside a $1.9 billion fund to recognize the experience of children taken away from their families and denied access to their culture and language while living at an Indian Residential School. Applicants for this program do not have to prove abuse. A separate program provides for higher awards for First Nations people who suffered physical and sexual harm.

    Most eligible people in the Nuu-chah-nulth territories have applied and received payments, according to Watts. He knows of about 10 cases, though, where applicants have not been paid for all of the years they were in residential schools. Quu?asa is helping them with their appeals.

    "Certain people were denied certain years and we don't know why. They went for seven years and only got paid for two," Watts said. "It's tough because you have to rely on government records or search for pictures taken in the schools. You have to talk to fellow students who were there at the same time. I find it's a crime that through legislation, you take people's kids away and then deny that they were even there."

    Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo attended residential school for nine years. He said he did not suffer some of the more serious abuse that others experienced, but he did received a severe blow to his right ear that affects his hearing to this day.

    "The impacts on me were the deprivation of teaching the values of our lessons, our history, our governance system - all those things were taken from us," Atleo said. "We weren't allowed to extend that teaching line that existed before. An incredible knowledge gap exists."


    Government officials who think that the residential school issue is going to go away on Monday, Sept. 19, can think again, if Atleo and others have their way.

    "We're strongly recommending an extension because whoever determined the timetable had no clue as far as the depth and reach of the trauma," Atleo said. "As recently as two weeks ago, I spoke to a relative of mine who indicated how difficult it was to begin the application because it was so traumatic. We're dealing with multi-generational impacts. When the deadline goes, that's probably the signal for someone in government to say that's over and done, but for us, it's not. We'll continue to address the challenges and issues that confront us."

    read full article at:

  3. Nisga'a residential school survivors return home

    CBC News October 5, 2011

    Four hundred members of the Nisga'a Ts'amiks, many of whom have not stepped foot in the Nass Valley since they were taken away to residential schools, march towards the Nisga'a Museum in Greenville.

    Hundreds of Nisga'a now living in southern B.C. are reconnecting with their homeland in the Nass Valley in the northwestern part of the province.

    Most of the 400 returning Nisga'a are residential school survivors who haven't been back since they were taken away as children.

    The Journey Home tour, organized by Vancouver's Nisga'a community, has been in the works for three years.

    The project gave many returnees the opportunity to reconnect with their heritage by relearning Nisga'a customs, language and culture before their journey north.

    Richmond resident and residential school survivor Esther Stewart is one of the many who are making the emotional return.

    "It opened a lot of feelings that I never knew I had," she said. "This was a powerful journey. I meet a lot of heartwarming, beautiful people wherever we go."

    Organizer Sherry Small said the project is incredibly important.

    "It is just that to put their feet on the ground of the creator and to feel the spiritual nature and of what that means to be Nisga'a."

    The group will be in Gitwinksihlkw on Wednesday before finishing their trip in New Aiyansh on Thursday.


  4. Cost to redress native residential school abuse set to pass $5-billion

    by BILL CURRY Globe and Mail November 18, 2011

    Twenty nine thousand. That’s Ottawa’s latest estimate of how many people will ultimately come forward with compensation cases for physical and sexual abuse suffered at Canada’s native residential schools. The volume is more than twice what was expected, meaning the final cost of Canada’s 2006 out-of-court settlement with former students is on pace to exceed $5-billion – well beyond the original $3.2-billion budget set five years ago.

    The settlement awarded at least some money to all living former students, but also included an option for additional compensation for physical and sexual abuse via an Independent Assessment Process. It was estimated that 12,500 former students would apply. Now the latest estimates forecast at least 29,000 IAP claimants will come forward, and the vast majority of claims so far have been validated by independent adjudicators. The sheer volume of successful cases supports those who say violent abuse was rampant, not isolated.

    “I think the message is that sexual abuse was prevalent in these institutions,” said Charlene Belleau, who manages the Assembly of First Nations residential schools unit. Ms. Belleau, a former B.C. chief, said she expects the final numbers will be even higher as the Sept. 19, 2012 deadline approaches. With IAP settlements averaging just over $120,000 including legal fees, a rough estimate suggests Ottawa could be on the hook for well over $2-billion in additional costs tied to compensating former students.


    Residential schools were originally created as part of religious missionary work and started receiving federal support in 1874. They were then run as joint ventures by Ottawa and the churches as part of a policy to assimilate natives. Nearly all of the remaining schools were closed in the mid-1970s.

    The original 2006 agreement broke down costs into six sections, totalling about $3.2-billion. That included $1.9-billion for a Common Experience Payment that went to all former students based on the number of years they attended the school. This payment is meant as compensation to students for being removed from their homes and for having their languages and culture diminished.

    The second largest section was the IAP, which allows former students to tell their story in a private hearing – sometimes with the alleged abuser present. Government-appointed adjudicators listen to the stories of abuse and approve compensation, using a matrix that increases the payment based on the severity of the physical or sexual abuse and the severity of the long-term emotional impact on the former student.

    The remainder of the deal included $125-million for Aboriginal Healing Foundation programs, $100-million for the payment of plaintiffs’ legal fees, and $60-million toward a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    read the full article at:


  5. Expect more residential school claims, say observers

    CBC News December 3, 2011

    The government expects roughly 29,000 former residential school students to apply for their alternative resolution process, which will hear claims of abuse outside a courtroom setting.

    But community leaders predict the number of applicants looking for compensation will be much higher.

    Former students have 292 days left to apply for the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), which could provide compensation to students who experienced physical or sexual abuse at Indian Residential Schools.

    But some who work with former students are concerned that the government is not prepared for a much higher demand, referencing their experiences at the community level.

    Joe Pintarics, project supervisor at the Healing Drum Society, said the government's estimate is low.

    His Yellowknife-based organization runs a trauma recovery program with a seven-person staff, and Pintarics said the number of clients has been consistently high.

    "It's been a steady flow," he said. "I've been here four years now. We've had the same level. It's been a very high level."

    Pintarics said as more people talk about their experiences, more come forward looking for help.

    He said there is no sense of the depth of damage caused by residential schools.

    "We need treatment facilities that are highly specialized," he said, adding that help should be "available for this generation, the next generation, and probably for the next after that."

    He also worries about the former students and families he deals with now because the Healing Drum funding is expected to end four years from now.

    The number of former residential school students is considerable.

    Initially, about 1,100 students attended 69 schools across the country. In 1931, at the peak of the residential school system, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada.

    A total of about 130 schools operated across Canada — excluding Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick — from the earliest in the 19th century to the last, which closed in 1996.

    All in all, about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools.

    "While there is an estimated 80,000 former students living today, the ongoing impact of residential schools has been felt throughout generations and has contributed to social problems that continue to exist," states the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

    Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus agrees that government is underestimating the number of former students that will come forward.

    The Dene Nation holds its own conferences and workshops on residential schools. Erasmus said everyone who has been to residential school has been hurt and should be compensated.

    "There are people that can no longer hold a job. They can no longer hold a full-time job because of what occurred to them when they were children," said Erasmus.


  6. Survivors closer to healing with news Truth and Reconciliation Commission is coming

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times December 16, 2011

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has announced it will hold hearings in Port Alberni on March 12 and 13, 2012.
    It is long-awaited news for many Aboriginal People here in the Alberni Valley who attended the infamous Alberni Residential School, which operated from 1920 to 1972.

    Tom Happynook, Huu-ay-aht First Nations councillor, said the hearings are one of the most important steps the federal government is taking to heal the wounds created by the residential school system here and across Canada.

    Happynook's grandmother, father, aunties and other members of his family experienced abuse while attending the Alberni Residential School.
    His grandmother was born in 1914 and was sent away to the school at the age of six.
    "Her hair was cut off and they washed her in kerosene," Happynook said.

    He added that she had many painful memories from her 10 years at the school.

    "I was really angry about how our people and my family have been treated by our government," Happynook said.

    He worked through his anger by realizing he needed to have peace to find solutions and to be a good husband and father to his three children.
    Happynook's grandmother died at the age of 93, but lived long enough to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's public apology (in June of 2008) on behalf of the government to Aboriginal People across the country who are survivors and family members of survivors of residential schools.

    "She appreciated the apology," Happynook said.
    In the months following this significant move, payments were sent out to aboriginal people based on the length of time they attended residential schools.

    Happynook said the payments were important as an acknowledgement of the abuse that took place in the schools, that the system was "created by the government of Canada."

    "But it certainly wasn't enough," he added.
    However, the coming of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Port Alberni is a vital step in the healing process.

    "I think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the more important part," Happynook said. "It allow survivors to tell their stories. Even though they have to relive those horrors, it will be documented. This genocide will become part of Canadian history forever."

    Tseshaht Chief Councillor Les Sam said when the hearings take place, his people will make their request that a health and wellness centre be constructed where the old residential school building stood, so that it can become a place of healing.

    "We still consider this an open wound," Sam said. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  7. Former NHL player Fred Sasakamoose recalls abuse at residential school

    by The Canadian Press February 02, 2012

    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A former player in the National Hockey League has opened up about abuse he experienced at a residential school in Saskatchewan.

    Fred Sasakamoose spoke on the third and final day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's community hearing in Prince Albert.

    He told the hearing that he was raped by older children when he was nine years old at the Duck Lake residential school.

    Sasakamoose said a priest might have seen what was happening, but didn't do anything.

    He said he and a friend, who was also raped, were instead whipped and had coal oil poured over their heads.

    Sasakamoose dressed for 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1950s.

    “I feel that I could be able to talk now,” Sasakamoose said Thursday.

    He recalled getting up after the rape and having no clothes on.

    "Then I started running, put my clothes on and walked out. The priest was there. He could have seen it, but there was nothing that he would do.”

    Sasakamoose said he and his friend were trying to escape when they got caught and were put in the centre of the dining room during dinner hour.

    “Took our clothes off from the waist up and give us a whipping, then poured coal oil on top of us. That coal oil would burn my eyes.”

    Sasakamoose said he witnessed other abuses and there is "so much that I have to carry.

    "My little friend that I see in front of me — in bed being raped. My brother, who I saw also, being raped in front of me."

    Sasakamoose said it is only because of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings that he feels he can talk about his abuse in such detail.



  8. Residential schools called a form of genocide

    by CHINTA PUXLEY WINNIPEG — The Canadian Press February 17, 2012

    The chairman of Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission says removing more than 100,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in residential schools was an act of genocide.

    Justice Murray Sinclair says the United Nations defines genocide to include the removal of children based on race, then placing them with another race to indoctrinate them. He says Canada has been careful to ensure its residential school policy was not “caught up” in the UN’s definition.

    “That’s why the minister of Indian affairs can say this was not an act of genocide,” Judge Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba Friday. “But the reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was – and is – an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world.”

    About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend the government schools over much of the past century. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.

    The $60-million truth and reconciliation commission is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government, the Crown and residential school survivors. It is about halfway through its mandate and has visited about 500 communities, where it has heard graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse.

    The commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors so far and has heard from about 100 people who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said.

    Their legacy has left an indelible impact on Canadian society, he added. The commission has heard stories of survivors continuing the cycle of abuse with their own children.

    Even those who worked at the schools are not immune. Many of them were victims, too, and suffer lingering guilt and shame.

    “We’ve had teachers come forward to us and spoken to the commission … about how they so hated the experience of teaching in a residential school that they quickly left,” Judge Sinclair said. “They never put the fact that they worked at a residential school on their resumé and they always kept that fact hidden from everybody, even from their own families.”

    Just as children of school survivors suffer with their parents’ pain, so, too, do children of those who worked in the schools, Judge Sinclair said. Children of staff members also attended the schools and still grapple with what they saw and experienced there. Some watched their parents become deeply depressed later in life as they came to realize what they had been a part of.

    “In many ways, they also feel victimized by having been in residential schools. There is a great mixture of experiences here.”

    The commission is expected to release an interim report shortly about what it’s heard so far. But even halfway through its mandate, Judge Sinclair said, it’s clear work will take much longer to complete.

    There are between 200 million and 300 million government documents on residential schools policy and about 20 million photographs. The commission has only managed to copy about 14,000 photos for the record, he said.

    Canada will have to work hard to undo the damage done by the schools long after the commission has finished its work, Judge Sinclair suggested. Generations of children – both aboriginal and non-aboriginal – have been brought up on a curriculum that dismissed aboriginal culture and history as worthless and inferior.

    Another consequence is that there is a spiritual void in many aboriginal communities, Judge Sinclair added. Churches that once had strong congregations in aboriginal communities have moved out and elders who could pass on traditional spiritual teachings are no longer living.

    “It took 130 years to create this problem. It’s probably going to take us 130 years to undo it.”


  9. Report urges residential school history classes

    CBC News February 23, 2012

    The residential school system constituted an assault on aboriginal children, families and culture, and Canadians have been denied a full and proper education about aboriginal societies, according to a copy of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's interim report obtained by CBC News. The interim report was leaked Thursday to CBC News, a day before the three commissioners — chair Murray Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson — release the report in Vancouver.

    Their 20 recommendations address education, health and commemoration, among other issues. The commission calls for all provinces and territories to develop residential school education materials for public schools. Provinces and territories should hold education campaigns about the history and impact of residential schools in their jurisdictions, the commission says.

    The report also asks the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic formal apology to residential school survivors, saying it should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country. The commissioners want the apology delivered to every known residential school survivor. They recommend setting up a mental-health wellness facility in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, saying such a centre is "critically needed by residential school survivors and their families and communities."

    The federal government and the churches involved in residential schools should establish what the commission calls "an ongoing cultural revival fund" to pay for projects related to the cultural, traditional and spiritual heritage of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate. The commissioners are set to deliver their full report when their mandate expires in 2014.

    Some other recommendations are:

    --Provinces and territories should review what is taught in public schools about residential schools and develop new materials to address any shortfalls.

    --The federal government should set up centres for grief and trauma counselling and treatment.

    --The concerns of former students who feel unfairly left out of compensation programs should be addressed.

    --The federal government should work with the commission to make sure it has adequate funds to complete its mandate on time.

    --All levels of government and those party to the settlement agreement should use the United Nations Declaration on the -Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for ongoing reconciliation work between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

    --The federal government should restore funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation within the next fiscal year.

    --The federal government, churches and other agencies should hand over all relevant documents to the commission so that it can continue its work.

    continued in next comment...


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  10. continued from previous comment:

    Aboriginal children separated from families

    The first residential schools were established in the 1840s and the last one closed in 1996.

    Aboriginal children were separated from their families and sent to Christian schools, where many students were abused.

    The report says the impacts were immediate and have been ongoing since.

    The report insists the commission can’t accomplish reconciliation alone. It says that until the federal government recognizes Aboriginal peoples’ unique legal status as the original peoples of this country, there will be no reconciliation.

    Ron Morrisseau is a survivor who went to St. Joseph's school in Thunder Bay, Ont. He says students need to know more about what happened, but it should come not from teachers but from survivors because they were there.

    "The people, man or woman, who went to the residential school should have the privilege of presenting their own consequences. They should be teaching the children, not the government," Morrisseau said.


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  11. Ottawa, churches withholding documents, residential schools commission says

    by TAMARA BALUJA, Globe & Mail February 24, 2012

    Ottawa is restricting access to federal archives and withholding several key documents on church-run residential schooling, says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged with exposing the dark legacy of this period in aboriginal education.

    The commission’s mandate is to create a comprehensive historical record of residential schooling in Canada with a purpose of helping victims to heal and encourage reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. But in an interim report released Friday in Vancouver, the commission says the federal government and some churches are frustrating their efforts to search through their archives and causing “considerable delay.”

    “It is unlikely that the document collection process will be completed without a significant shift in attitude on the part of Canada and those parties who have been reluctant to co-operate,” Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the commission, wrote in the report.

    The commission was established in 2008 through the court-approved Residential Schools Settlement Agreement that was negotiated among legal counsel for former students, the churches, the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government.

    Jan O’Driscoll, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, said the government will carefully review the interim report, but refused to answer any questions on restricting access to records or costs. Mr. O’Driscoll added that the government has already handed over close to a million digitized records to the commission and is preparing to disclose more in the near future.

    The commission says, however, that the federal government has from five million to 50 million relevant files on residential schooling, and more than 100,000 boxes of records at the Library and Archives Canada, including some 40,000 boxes from the Aboriginal Affairs Department.

    While the report doesn’t name which churches are not co-operating with the commission, the United Church of Canada said it has hired a researcher specifically to sift through its archives on residential schooling.

    “The only documents we’re withholding are those with solicitor-client privilege and even then, we are willing to have a discussion with the commission about it,” said Reverend James Scott, general counsel for residential schools. “But most of the documents, close to 95 per cent, are simply not a problem.”

    What those church and national archive documents might reveal remains unknown as most organizations don’t have a full inventory yet, Judge Sinclair said. The commission has been provided with “only a very limited portion” of photos and documents in the original lawsuit. But it also needs access to documents on daily operations, such as what the children ate at these schools, for example, to get a “more clear picture.”

    Judge Sinclair said the cost for reproducing copies of the archives should be borne by the federal government and the churches involved. If the commission is forced to pick up the tab, the costs could exceed the commission’s $60-million budget.

    “We don’t have any authority to force anybody to do anything,” Judge Sinclair said. The commission will now seek advice from the courts on how to ensure compliance, before its mandate expires in 2014.


  12. Truth and Reconciliation Commission says healing requires education

    The Canadian Press February 24, 2012

    Tears form in Barney Williams eyes and his hand rests over his heart when he speaks about how important a report on residential schools is for First Nations who grew up in the church-run schools.

    "Many survivors are in terrible pain," Williams said, who himself is a residential school survivor and an elder with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which released its interim report Friday.

    He said the report is proof that many of the 150,000 aboriginal children who went the residential school systems suffered horrible neglect or physical and sexual abuse.

    Williams, 73, went to a residential school on the west coast of Vancouver Island, not far from his Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation reserve, near Tofino, B.C.

    He was "not quite seven" when he was first sexually assaulted, he stated matter-of-factly. "Pedophiles have their victims. They used you for a while until they found another victim."

    It's a story he's told all over Canada, but he said many still don't believe that something so horrible could be part of Canada's history.

    "A lot of people I talked to would say 'Well gee you know priests and nuns would never do that,' that's the belief right," he said. "I'm saying 'Well you know what? They did that because my abusers were both male and female."'

    That's why he feels the commission's recommendation to use the education system to tell students what happened is a key part of the report.

    "It's going to take a lot of work to convince the general public that this really happened. There is still doubt among the general population."

    Chairman says education needed

    Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission's chairman, said panel members were struck by the amount Canadians don't know about aboriginal people and the sorry legacy of residential schools.

    "It has been through the use of an education system by the Canadian government that we have established and created the situation that exists within aboriginal communities and within aboriginal families in this country," Sinclair said at a news conference.

    "Also, it is through the educational system that non-aboriginal Canadians have been taught what they've come to learn about aboriginal people, or not learned about aboriginal people in this country.

    "We believe it is through the educational system that that information can be corrected, that that lack of information can be filled."

    Sinclair also called on the government to mount a public information campaign to educate Canadians.

    It took 130 years to get to this point in the process, Sinclair said, and it may take that long again for First Nations to recover from the abuse.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson told reporters that because the residential school stain was never taught in Canadian schools, no one knew what happened to generations of aboriginals.

    "We have all been the losers for lack of that knowledge and understanding. It has led us to a place of stereotypes and judgment."

    The commission was set up to help First Nations heal from abuses in the system that was "an assault" on aboriginal children, their families and their culture, the interim report said.

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    The report said the schools "often were sites of institutionalized child neglect, excessive physical punishment, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

    Generations of trauma

    The commission found that several generations of children were "traumatized" by being abused, witnessing abuse or being "coerced to participate in abuse."

    Aboriginal children were taken from their families and forced to attend the schools, the first of which opened in the 1870s and the last of which closed in 1996.

    The commission makes 20 recommendations in its interim report, including a call for the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic formal apology to residential school survivors.

    It says the apology should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country and be delivered to every known residential school survivor.

    The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate, with a full report due when the mandate expires in 2014.

    Sinclair said the education system needs to address important issues about residential schools before then.

    A copy of the interim report was leaked to CBC News on Thursday, a day before the three commissioners — Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson — released the report in Vancouver.


    Truth and Reconciliation Commission interim report (PDF)


  14. Government still trying to assimilate aboriginals by underfunding child welfare, natives argue

    By Teresa Smith, Postmedia News February 14, 2012

    OTTAWA — The federal government continues to use assimilationist policies — such as those perpetrated by decades of residential schools — by consistently underfunding child-welfare agencies that provide services to First Nations children on reserve, a counsel for the Assembly of First Nations said Tuesday in Ottawa.

    Speaking before a judicial review at the Federal Court, David Nahwegahbow said the residential school system mentality was so entrenched in the minds of lawmakers that it simply morphed into the modern-day child-welfare system that is currently responsible for three times more children than at the height of the residential school system.

    "It's not as obvious," said Nahwegahbow, "but evidence seems to suggest that kids are being taken away from their homes due to a lack of funding for preventive programs, that could keep them with their families."

    The three-day judicial review, which concludes on Wednesday, is the result of an appeal by aboriginal child-advocacy groups of a 2011 Human Rights Tribunal decision to dismiss a discrimination case against the federal government.

    The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations are alleging that the government is discriminating against aboriginal children by consistently underfunding child-welfare services on reserves, leading, they contend, to poverty, poor housing, substance abuse and a vast over-representation of aboriginal children in state care.

    "This case will not only affect one child, one family or one First Nation. This complaint is about all FN children on reserve — it is therefore an issue of significant importance" and should be heard on the merits, said Sarah Clarke, counsel for the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

    The decision will affect all First Nations people on reserve whenever they are receiving a service that is provided off reserve by the province, said Clarke.

    In addition to child welfare services, that includes health care, water services, education and police services.

    The aboriginal advocates are arguing that the chair of the tribunal made an error of law when she dismissed the case because it is too important a case to be dismissed without a hearing.

    The federal government is expected to argue Wednesday that, because it merely sends funds to band managers — who themselves administer the services — the government cannot be held responsible for the services delivered.

    The government also says the question itself is invalid because it funds services on reserves, while provincial governments are responsible for services to the rest of Canadians, and that comparing two governments is both "unreasonable" and nonsensical.

    The "comparator" argument was used in the Human Rights Tribunal's initial decision to dismiss the case in 2011 before any of the main evidence had been heard.

    However, Nahwegahbow asked the court to take into account the government-sanctioned "history of disadvantage" plaguing First Nations. "Given the fact that there is no parallel example in this country which could compare to the experience of aboriginal people," Nahwegahbow argued that the government should be held accountable by "the honour of the Crown."

    That is the principle that "in all dealings with aboriginal people, the Crown must act honourably." It enshrines the government's duty to consult with aboriginal people and accommodate their interests, and it has been used in previous cases of land claims at the Supreme Court level.

    "It would be dishonourable of the Crown to argue that it can't be held accountable" just because there is no obvious comparator, said Nahwegahbow.

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    "The best interests of the child should be the primary consideration," he said.

    At a rally on Parliament Hill in conjunction with the case, students from six public schools across Ontario and Quebec gathered to deliver Valentine's Day cards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding "equal education" for First Nations children.

    As part of the Have a Heart camp again, several carried posters with handwritten messages, such as "My Canada includes Reserves" and "The Gov't of Canada is no ally to protect the rights of First Nations Children."

    A young boy from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Maniwaki, Que., was one of several students from Grades 4 to 8 who spoke to the 400-strong crowd about the need for improved education services in First Nations schools.

    His school, he said, doesn't even have a library.

    "The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights is for all Canadians," said another student, named Elliot. "Despite the commitment of Canada, Canada has failed miserably in this regard."

    The Federal Court "has an obligation to hear the case," Elliot said. He added that Harper has "no right to criticize China about human rights'" when First Nations communities in Canada lack basic housing and education.

    That reality was again brought to the fore when Attawapiskat, a northern Ontario community of 2,100 people on James Bay, declared a state of emergency over deplorable living conditions on Oct. 28.

    For at least the last two years, some of the community's residents had been living in shacks and makeshift tents without electricity, heat or indoor plumbing.

    Meanwhile, a Devonshire Public School student asked: "Why is it I have a good school and they don't? Is it because I am not native and they are?"

    As images of a housing crisis on the northern Ontario reserve hit TV screens across the country last year, Attawapiskat — one community among a hundred remote reserves in the same dire conditions — put itself on the map.

    Since then, a delegation of six aboriginal young people travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to tell the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about their experiences in Canada.

    One of the young people, 22-year-old child and youth care student Madelynn Slade told the committee about her experience in the child-welfare system.

    Against the government's own policies, which promise culturally appropriate care, Slade was placed with a white family, away from her home community.

    She said her goal is to "keep speaking until somebody listens."

    "Children are dying in these homes, children are being abused in these homes and no one is caring," said Slade after returning to Victoria where she attends university.

    "It's hard to think about, but it's happening right now, this second. And, that's not something where I should I have to go to the UN and beg them to listen to me because the Canadian government hasn't listened."

    With files from Sheila Dabu Nonato, Postmedia News


  16. Curtain lifts on decades of forced adoptions for unwed mothers in Canada

    Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post March 9, 2012

    Karen Lynn was 19 when her mother sent her to a home for unmarried pregnant women in Clarkson, Ont., in 1963. There, she was known as Karen No. 1 to protect her family’s reputation, and said it was clear she would not have been allowed to stay there if she did not agree to an adoption. A year later, Sharon Pedersen was 20-years-old when she was drugged and tied to her bed during labour and then shown four different babies through the nursery window at a hospital in Victoria, she said.

    She ultimately signed adoption papers at the local children’s aid society, she said, but not before social workers held a pen in her hand and threatened to call the police because she was screaming and throwing furniture in protest.

    Similar accounts have begun to emerge across Canada, and there is now a growing movement calling on the federal government to probe this country’s historic adoption practices. Many decades have passed, and many women have since reunited with their sons and daughters, but they are speaking out against what they say were coerced and forced adoptions.

    Not every unmarried mother was coerced or forced into giving up her child, but the women going public today are not alone.

    Their stories sound eerily like the hundreds of testimonies submitted to a recent Australian inquiry into adoption from the 1950s to the early-1980s, and last month an Australian Senate committee urged the government to apologize to the “many parents whose children were forcibly removed” from their care.

    Beyond a push for an inquiry here, Canadian provinces from Quebec westward will soon be hit with class-action suits accusing the governments of kidnapping, fraud and coercion, according to the well-known lawyer heading the pending actions.

    “Clearly, this story is a sad and difficult one, and we’re just beginning to hear more about it,” said Bruce Gregersen, a spokesperson for the United Church, which co-ran Winnipeg’s Church Home for Girls, where one woman said she was told she could be criminally charged if she tried to keep her child. “This will warrant a great deal of attention.”

    Seven women spoke with the National Post, most telling their stories openly for the first time, in the hopes of airing what some say was more than a vague societal push for unmarried mothers to consent to adoption.

    Teenaged and unmarried, Valerie Andrews said she was unknowingly given medication to block her breast-milk. Hanne Andersen said her B.C. hospital records say “Baby for Adoption” even though the teenaged single mother had planned to keep the baby. Social workers in Sudbury, Ont., never told Esther Tardif she was eligible for social assistance and said if she loved her unborn child, she would let him go.

    Most of the mothers interviewed for this story said the coercion was systematic: From the church-run maternity homes where accommodation was sometimes predicated on adoption and where mothers had to write a letter to their unborn child explaining the separation; to the social workers who concealed information about social assistance and who told single mothers they could be charged with child endangerment; to the medical staff who called the women “sluts” and denied them painkillers, and who reportedly tied teenagers to their beds or obstructed their view of labour with a sheet.

    “To the Canadian establishment, this will come as a big surprise,” said Ms. Lynn, who heads the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers, which aims to expose the negative treatment of mothers in adoption practice. “What we hear all the time is, ‘You gave up your baby.’ What I say is that, at very best, it was a tragic choice.”

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    Ms. Andrews has studied Statistics Canada data on illegitimate births from 1945 to 1973 and the rough rate of adoption among unmarried women at the time, and offers what seems to be an astronomical estimate: that 350,000 unmarried Canadian mothers were persuaded, coerced or forced into adoption.

    But some unmarried women may have been grateful to know their child would grow up in a secure home and spared the stigma of being an illegitimate child, said Lori Chambers, who pored over thousands of archived children’s aid cases for her book, Misconceptions, about unmarried mothers in Ontario from 1921-1969. And not all ostracized women suffered in maternity homes — some would have appreciated the shelter, food and friendships that no one else would provide.

    “The question becomes not why unmarried women gave babies up for adoption, but how some women had the fortitude not to,” Ms. Chambers said. “Most of them gave up and released their child for adoption.”

    Ms. Andrews has spent much of the past four years documenting the treatment of unmarried teenaged mothers in church-run maternity homes, hospitals and children’s aid societies, at a time when abortion was illegal, birth control was not easily accessible, and unmarried mothers were seen as loose women too feeble-minded to parent.

    Joyce Masselink, a social worker who dealt with unmarried single mothers in Toronto and B.C. in the 1960s, said Ms. Andrews’ estimate “does not sound realistic,” and said girls were “treated very well” in the church-run maternity home she often visited in Vancouver.

    When Marilyn Churley found herself alone and pregnant in 1968, the former Ontario MPP said her social worker in Barrie, Ont., was the only friend she had — although she said the social worker never talked about alternatives to adoption and that she endured a “horrific” 24-hour labour without painkillers.

    “I didn’t know any social workers who forced or coerced women into adoption, and I certainly didn’t myself,” Ms. Masselink said, adding that some social workers were, however, rigorous in promoting the social values of the day. “I do know that probably went on, though. Women’s stories attest to that.”

    An April 25, 1961, Ann Landers column perhaps best illustrates how society viewed unmarried mothers. In describing a single mother’s love for her child, she wrote: “Such ‘love’ is questionable. It is a sick kind of love turned inside out — an unwholesome blend of self-pity mixed with self-destruction and touch of martyrdom.”

    Most of the mothers interviewed for this story said they kept their secret for decades, having been “groomed for shame,” Ms. Andrews said. But with last month’s Australian report, the women said it is time for Canadian mothers to know they are not alone and for their children to know they were not unwanted. Ms. Andrews has planned a two-day conference airing Canada’s history of adoptions this fall in Toronto, and is hopeful hundreds of mothers and adoptees will attend.

    The Australian committee called on the government to apologize — without reference to the social values of the day — and to compensate mothers, some of whom “recounted a pregnancy marred by systematic disempowerment,” according to the report.

    “I still feel the shame,” said an Ontario woman named Katie, who asked that her last name not be used because her daughter does not know she was conceived in rape. “It wasn’t until I got my hospital records and saw what they did to me that I could start breathing without this horrible weight on my shoulders.”

    Katie said she was given labour-inducing drugs and was not allowed to hold the child at a Winnipeg hospital, not far from the United Church home where she was living. The fair-haired 17-year-old was knocked out with what “felt like a chemical straight-jacket” and later shown a black-haired baby who was too big to be a newborn, she said.

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    Katie said she never signed an adoption paper but remembers nodding in a courtroom where she thinks she made her daughter a ward of the state.

    Ms. Chambers said until Ontario children’s aid societies started receiving substantial government funding in 1965, they relied mostly on donations, often from adopting parents. She said the societies were in a conflict of interest, then, and at times struck a deal with the father: If he consented to an adoption and paid a small sum, the society would not represent the woman in a costly child-support battle.

    Ms. Andrews, who heads Origins Canada supporting people separated by adoption, is urging the federal government to follow Australia’s lead and launch an inquiry here. She said roughly 100 mothers and adoptees have so far registered with the organization for a future inquiry, but said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s office told her this is a provincial matter. A spokesperson for the minister confirmed this is the government’s position.

    Ms. Andrews said a July, 2011, letter written by her Ontario MPP, Reza Moridi, to the Minister of Children and Youth Services has so far gone unanswered.

    “Nobody will acknowledge this because they don’t believe us, just like for years they didn’t believe the women in Australia,” said Ms. Andersen, who today heads Justice for Mother and Child, an advocacy group for those “unlawfully separated” at birth.

    She plans to file a police report this month to prompt an RCMP criminal investigation into women she said were “targeted” for their babies, many of whom were white, healthy and in high demand, she said. Ms. Andersen, who became pregnant at age 15 in 1982 and said she was allowed to hold her baby just once, will also be the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit expected to be launched against the B.C. government in the coming weeks or months.

    “My feet were still in stirrups and I had a sheet over my body so I couldn’t see the baby,” said Ms. Andersen, who claims her consent to adoption was invalid because she said she never actually had possession of her daughter in the first place. “They wrapped her up in a blanket … I said, ‘Stop! Where are you going with my baby? I asked three times and had to yell, ‘Bring me my baby now!’”

    A draft of the statement of claim says the class action will cover women affected by the “Baby for Adoption (BFA) protocol” and seeks general and special damages for the lost opportunity to parent, medical treatment without consent, and mental distress.

    “I don’t think there is any question there was a policy where, if a child was born outside of a marriage, that child was not to remain with the mother,” said Ms. Andersen’s well-known Saskatchewan lawyer, Tony Merchant, whose firm secured a $2-billion settlement in the 2006 Indian Residential School class action.

    In Australia, the inquiry heard the “BFA” policy often led to treatment in line with the then-popular “clean break theory,” which said it was in everyone’s best interest to avoid contact between the natural mother and her child after birth.

    A spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development said ministry staff “don’t know of any concerted policy in the government back in the 1960s and 1970s that would have forced women to give up their babies.”

    Mr. Merchant said the class-action suits will attempt to saddle the provinces with responsibility for the wrongdoings of church-run organizations because they were provincially funded agents.

    John Murray, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army, said the government-funded maternity homes it ran — such as Maywood, the B.C. home where Ms. Andersen said she was starved, verbally abused and never told of any available social assistance — helped pregnant teens in a time of need.

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    “I can’t specifically comment on how the organization managed its operations 40 or 50 years ago,” said Mr. Murray. “That’s not to say there weren’t perhaps isolated situations … but certainly, I think historically the Salvation Army was welcomed and valued by people in the community.”

    A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Canada, which owned the maternity home where Ms. Lynn stayed, said “there’s no one here now with any kind of living memory of what went on 40 years ago.” The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said it is up to each specific diocese to comment separately. Neither the Canadian Medical Association nor the Canadian Pediatric Society would comment. The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies passed an interview request to the Toronto Children’s Aid Society, which did not respond to a separate request for comment.

    Mr. Gregersen, meantime, said the United Church will now comb through its archives to find out what happened at its maternity homes, but said he invites mothers to come forward so researchers know where to focus their efforts.

    “Canada is so far behind on this,” said Ms. Pedersen. “I’ve been breathless ever since the Australian report came out. It’s about time it was acknowledged that these were forced adoptions.”


  20. Sharing stories is a big part of Truth and Reconciliation hearing

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 12, 2012

    March 12 marked a long-awaited catharsis for aboriginal residents in Port Alberni and the West Coast, who were given the opportunity to speak their truth about the terrible legacy of the Alberni Residential School, which operated on Tseshaht Land from 1920 to 1972.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson opened the event at Maht Mahs Gym by saying it is "an incredible opportunity to learn from it so that we can start to imagine...new ways of being a country."

    In 2007, a multi-pronged settlement agreement was reached with residential school survivors that included some funds for restitution, commemoration and to fund the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is currently documenting the experiences of survivors all across Canada, community by community.

    When the work is complete in 2014, a national research centre will be opened that can be accessed by anyone who wants to learn more about this dark part of Canadian history.

    "Our nation has so much to atone for," Wilson said.

    The event is being hosted on Tseshaht land, where the Alberni school was located.

    "It's been a long road for the Tseshaht. They put a residential school in our backyard. We never had a chance to be asked if we wanted one, it was something that was forced on our people," said Tseshaht Chief Councilor Les Sam. "The effects are generational. It is an open wound that has still not healed."

    The hearings progressed Monday, with survivors called to the microphone to share their memories, both good and bad.

    All the stories are being recorded for historical use. The hearings will continue Tuesday.


  21. Seeking truth and healing

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 13, 2012

    On March 12, aboriginal residents in Port Alberni and the West Coast were given the long-awaited opportunity to speak their truth about the sad legacy of the Alberni Residential School. Stories heard and recorded at the Alberni event will become part of a much larger, national memorial that will be preserved for all time.

    Many attended the hearings as part of their healing process. Some were there to listen, others to speak.

    The Alberni Residential School operated from 1920 to 1972, very close to the site of the current hearings.

    They were held at the Maht Mahs Gym on Tseshaht land.

    Canadian churches ran residential schools under contract with the government: the United Church (that ran the Alberni school), the Catholic Church, the Anglican/United Church and the Presbyterian Church.

    Several churches sent representatives to the Alberni event.

    Following an opening prayer and traditional Tseshaht dance, commissioner Marie Wilson opened the hearings by explaining in detail exactly what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will do.

    Following that, Tseshaht Chief Councillor Les Sam was one of the first aboriginal representatives to speak.

    "It's been a long road for the Tseshaht. They put a residential school in our backyard. We never had a chance for them to ask if we wanted one, it was something that was forced on our people.

    "The effects are generational. It is an open wound that has still not healed."

    Sam described a ceremonial tearing down and burning of one of the school's old buildings some years ago.

    "More than 400 people attended," Sam said. "People were invited to burn a piece of the building. It was closure for some."

    He welcomed the hearings as a chance for survivors to return and heal, adding they are welcome in his territory.

    A list of speakers were called to share their personal stories throughout the day. Some were tales of hope, some were painful memories of past abuse and neglect.

    Following each presentation, the speaker stood and was thanked for sharing his or her story.
    Multiple support workers were on hand to assist survivors.

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    The TRC is one-fifth of an overall agreement that includes a Common Experience Payment that was given to those who went to residential schools on approved lists, the Alberni school being one of them.

    The second part of the agreement is the Independent Assessment Payment for those who suffered harms or injuries aside from the general harm of being removed from families. This includes sexual, psychological and/or physical abuse. Taking this step requires a hearing and evidence and careful preparation, Wilson explained.

    The third is payments for commemoration projects. Approximately $20 million has been allocated for this purpose, and the deadline for applications is the end of this month.
    The fourth part of the agreement includes funds allocated to aboriginal healing foundations for healing initiatives.

    Some $60 million is allocated to the fifth part of the settlement, to all of the work of the TRC.

    "Our job is not about any of those pots of money or deciding on that. Our job is about contributing to healing and to the education of our country," Wilson said. "Our nation has so much to atone for."

    She said the TRC's job is to gather together the complete history of residential schools in Canada, to document and safeguard it and to make sure the information is accessible to all future generations and to make final reports and recommendations to all the parties.

    When the commission's work is complete in 2014, a national research centre will be opened and will be accessible to the public as a lasting memorial for survivors and their descendants.
    A number of regional and national events will also be hosted by the TRC, including a regional event in Victoria on April 13 and 14, and a national event in Vancouver in the fall of 2013.
    "The Canada of the future will never be able to say this didn't happen in our country. It did happen in our country," Wilson said.


  23. Painful truth comes out at hearing

    Survivors of Alberni Residential School share their stories to Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley March 13, 2012

    Terror, abuse, neglect and pain. These were the horrifying realities for some who attended Alberni Residential School.

    On Monday, many of them told their stories to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an audience of their friends, families and supporters.

    "I am terrified to be here. I was so tormented here," said Elizabeth Kimberly Good. "But I know the people who reside here now are beautiful people."

    Good was one of 10 children in her family, all of whom attended a residential school.

    As a young child taken from her parents, Good found solace in her friendship with a young classmate.

    "I remember his face. I remember his hands," she said. "He was always so kind to me."

    One day her friend did not appear for their usual meeting. The next day she found out he had died.

    "That was my goodness of the residential school, and he died," Good said, weeping openly as a hushed audience of supporters listened.

    Good grew up but could not put the past behind her. She sought "the place of pure joy" she hoped she might find in death.

    "I'm thankful that I'm here today," she said.
    Good asked the representative of the United Church at the hearing (the United Church ran the Alberni School) to stand.

    A chair scraped softly and a man stood up to face Good.

    "I forgive you," she said. Sharon Marshall Neill told the commission that both her parents attended a residential school, and the impact shattered her childhood.

    "I grew up in a lot of violence and alcoholism," Neill said. "I have seen a lot of things a child shouldn't see.

    "At five-years-old, I seen a woman get raped. And at seven I seen another woman raped by men. This caused a lot of fear in me. I didn't understand it, I still don't. How a woman could be treated that way."

    She pointed out that some of her siblings went to a residential school and others did not, but "they suffered as much as we did through the violence and alcoholism."

    Neill said she was not appearing before the commission to speak about herself, but to advocate for help for women and an end to domestic violence.

    "I would like to see safe homes for children," she said.

    Neill concluded by telling the commission that her people were once self-sufficient, and had it not been for the legacy of residential schools, "we would have a better life, and we wouldn't have to carry the shame."

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    There were also stories of hope and defiance.
    Huu-ay-aht elder Benson Nookemus spoke of his father's refusal to be beaten by a principal at the residential school.

    "They called him into the principal's office. They locked the door-he grabbed the strap. But my dad was ready for him," Nookemus said. "My dad, he grabbed that strap and started beating up that principal. He was kicked out of school."
    Attending a residential school himself, Nookemus remembered girls being sexually abused at the school and conditions that were less than humane.

    "We were always hungry. We were always having to steal food," he said.

    Some of the meals survivors describe being fed included stale bread and gruel.

    "But we had to eat what they gave us, otherwise we would have starved to death," Nookemus said.
    Tim Sutherland remembers being attacked by five or six boys at the school and sexually abused in front of other students. "I don't remember their names, it happened so quickly," Sutherland said. "I was very humiliated, I couldn't hide."

    He described the frustration of trying to seek justice, only to be defeated in an appeal.

    "I want everyone to know we are not lying about such a big thing as sexual abuse. I was abused," Sutherland said. "The man who was supposed to be watching us is now in jail for sexual abuse. He wasn't there for me."

    As he concluded his story, Sutherland hoped for peace.

    "I no longer want to hear myself and feel myself get upset about what happened. I don't want to tell this anymore," he said.

    The TRC hearings are meant to preserve a lasting record of people's experiences in the residential school system, and to help with the healing process. The Port Alberni hearings conclude today.


  25. TRC story ends with hope

    Commission wraps up two-day stop in Port Alberni with aim of healing survivors

    by Julia Caranci, Alberni Valley Times March 14, 2012

    While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard many heartbreaking histories over the last two days, people also shared their tales of hope and healing.

    In addition, the commission learned how important gaining back their culture is to Aboriginal People here.

    The TRC wrapped up two days of hearings in Port Alberni on Tuesday.

    The commission will visit more communities, both large and small, across the country in the coming months. The goal is to create a lasting record of survivors' experiences while attending residential schools, which were run by various churches under contract to the government.
    The Alberni Residential School, which operated from 1920 to 1972, was one of many in which alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse took place.

    While many tears were shed over the two days in Port Alberni, one strong message emerged - healing is possible.

    "We want to get back who we are," said Lawrence Baird, who spoke to the commission on Tuesday. "Don't let it stop your progress."

    And following each person's revelations, emcee Stan Matthews offered praise to the survivor.

    "You are a beautiful person," Matthews said to survivor Sherry Brown after her emotional story.
    "Welcome to the new you." Several of the speakers expressed concern that traditional aboriginal languages are being lost.

    "If we don't move now, it will go extinct," Baird said.

    On Monday, Huu-ay-aht elder Benson Nookemus made the same strong point, saying there may be as few as 150 people out of 9,000 in his nation that are still fluent in their traditional language.

    He added there is hope. New classes are being held at North Island College that started up in September. But Nookemus also hinted the federal government could do more to help fund the revitalization of aboriginal culture.
    "It would be nice to send a couple of million dollars to me," he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

    He added he would use the funds to foster language learning in his people.

    The commission does not make any decisions during the hearings. The purpose is to listen and record.

    Perhaps the most inspiring moment came during a break in the speakers, when Tseshaht children from haahuupayak School performed with classmates.

    Grouped in a circle, they sang a song of hope in their traditional language, moving many in the crowd to tears.

    Following the song, the children distributed handmade paddle necklaces decorated with rainbows. One was given to each survivor in the audience.

    The hearings wrapped up on Tuesday with closing remarks and a dance performance.

    Aside from running short on time for all the speakers, the hearings were a positive success story. The TRC will document the experiences of survivors, then gather them together, creating a lasting memorial to their experiences.


  26. Born Evil: That's What the Mormon Church Taught Me as a Brown and Female Child

    By Neeta Lind, Daily Kos Posted on AlterNet June 25, 2012

    I was probably in the second grade. The Sunday school teacher in my southern Utah town was giving a lesson from the Book of Mormon to a small class of a few girls. It had to have been in very simple terms since we were so young. I can see now that the lesson was meant to be a self esteem-builder. But it backfired on me. The teacher was trying to show us little girls how much God loved us and how important we are on this earth to do his work. I was barely paying attention since I really wanted to be home watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. I resented missing all my cartoons and being forced to go to church, which I considered boring. But I had no choice in the matter.

    That day, however, as the teacher recited the lesson and looked from girl to girl, my attention perked up when she said, "and YOU are all white and delightsome to our lord and he has special plans for you in this world ..." Just then, she came to me and her roving eyes stalled out. She stammered a couple of times because she had forgotten that her rote lesson was being delivered in a class that now included a little brown girl. An Indian that the Book of Mormon (I later found out) describes as bloodthirsty, fierce and loathsome. An Indian whose skin was dark because of a curse from God.

    After gulping a couple of times, she said something like "but Neeta here is a Lamanite (the Book of Mormon's name for the descendants of Laman, who was cursed with dark skin for displeasing god) and we welcome her. They too, if they work very hard can go to the Celestial Kingdom." That being the highest of the three kingdoms in heaven. I was told that if I made it to the Celestial Kingdom my skin would turn light.

    This promise of skin lightening was commonly preached when I was growing up. In fact, there was a Paiute woman in our town who had vitiligo, "a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin." My full-blood Navajo mother, Flora, a devoted Mormon, said that one of the bishops had told Mrs. Kanosh that the skin-color change was her reward from God for going to church. My mother was so pleased with this news. She loved anything that pointed to proof the Mormon gospel was true.

    Gradually, over the next few years, I learned more of what Joseph Smith (the founder of the church and the author of the Book of Mormon) had said about Indians. We were innately wicked. We converted ones had to be constantly watched against reverting to our evil, heathen ways. This was on top of the church's attitudes toward women. The General Counsel (the church's highest governing body) instructed women to obey their husbands, the priesthood holders. Another instruction I remember: The priesthood holder should love the lord first and then his wife. One really had to accept a lot of demoralization to be female AND BROWN when I was growing up Mormon.

    Attitude was bolstered by action. The church's Indian Placement Program ran from 1947 to 1996. Its mission was to remove children from desolate reservations and help them get an education by placing them in Mormon foster homes. Any child involved had to be baptized in order to participate. Nothing subtle about this virtual kidnapping. The church took children away from their homes to assimilate them into Mormon culture.

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  27. continued from previous comment:

    As the daughter of a Navajo mother and a white father, I straddled two cultures differently than the foster kids. I had many relatives on the reservation and spent much time in the summers there. But it wasn't home. In talking with some of the foster kids, I learned they had a hard time when they were younger. Some didn't want to join the church but were forced into it. They found it difficult to live in two worlds, the white world during the school year and then back on the reservation during the summer. Some of them sadly recounted that they were made fun of back on the reservation because they had lost some of their language and traditional knowledge.

    The majority of the Indian students attending school in our town were not foster kids but lived instead at the Indian dormitory on the outskirts. There was no requirement there to join the church. But those kids also told me about being homesick and feeling like an outsider in both worlds.

    Today, it's clear to most people that taking young children away from their families and culture is NOT a good thing. In fact, it's terrible. And it happened to 20,000 children in the Mormon church's Indian Placement Program.

    These decades-old memories came flooding back to me when I saw a recent report that Lamanite action figures were being sold at the church-owned Deseret Bookstore and online by a private company, Latter Day Designs.

    The Book of Mormon descriptions I came to strongly resent are used for each product.

    [see product photos and descriptions at the link below]

    Mormons weren't the only people who believed that the curse of Cain was dark skin. That was once the standard Christian view. But Mormons took it very seriously and barred African Americans from holding the priesthood because of the curse. I was 22 years old in 1978 when the church back-pedaled and allowed black men to hold the priesthood. That was quite a big step in damage control. But the teachings that produced the racist beliefs in the first place have never been officially repudiated. Still, I never thought I'd see African Americans allowed into the priesthood. It was hardly enough to keep me in the church and I left shortly afterward.

    All the derogatory descriptions about Lamanites remain in the Book of Mormon in verses like Alma 3:6:

    "And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."

    Those descriptions live on in Sunday school lessons and action figures for impressionable Mormon children. It's hard to change the word of God in books like that, so the record on what the Mormons think of Indians is written ongolden plates, never to be changed.

    How one can be Indian and a member of the Mormon church is completely beyond me.

    Neeta Lind is the community organizer of SFKossacks and Native American Netroots. Neeta has lead the Native American Caucus at Netroots Nation every year since 2006.


  28. Residential school abuse claims surpass federal estimates

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY, The Globe and Mail July 23 2012

    The number of people coming forward to say they were seriously abused at Canada’s Indian residential schools greatly outstrips early federal estimates and will boost the cost of settlements by more than $2-billion, federal officials say.

    It is a situation that suggests the problems at the government-funded, church-run institutions that operated for most of the previous century were far more pervasive than originally believed.

    With the Sept. 19 deadline for applications for compensation approaching, federal officials said Monday they expect the number of former students alleging serious sexual, physical or emotional abuse at schools to reach 30,000. That is 17,500 more than anticipated when the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was signed in 2006.

    And, with average settlements of $117,613 also higher than estimated, the final costs could easily top $3.5-billion – far more than the $960-million originally budgeted. Combined with the money that is being offered under the Common Experience Program – which pays the former students according to the number of years they spent at the schools – the total compensation awarded to former residential school students could approach $5.4-billion.

    Akivah Starkman, executive director for the Independent Assessment Process Secretariat, told reporters that the original estimates were based on the experiences of other countries in similar situations.

    Since they were calculated, said Mr. Starkman, eight more schools have been added to the list of eligible institutions and an intensive outreach campaign has created broad awareness among survivors of the potential entitlements. In addition, he said, “I think it appears, based on the numbers, that the incidents of abuse may have been more widespread than what was initially anticipated.”

    Chief Robert Joseph, executive director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, says the authorities completely underestimated the harm that was done.

    “Because the residential school situation is historic and ongoing, they had no idea just how pervasive the abuse was. And in some ways that’s a form of denial,” Mr. Joseph said. “I think they tried to weigh the balance of good that might have come out of residential schools against the bad that did happen. And I think they were hopeful that things were better than they really were, and they weren’t.”

    With the deadline looming, Mr. Joseph said he is not surprised to see a spike in the number of people applying for compensation. The survivors were all little children when the abuses occurred, he said. Many “were uncertain about the process and how open and receptive and fair it might be considering these abuses happened so long ago and we sometimes doubted ourselves about the times and dates and incidents,” Mr. Joseph said.

    But, even if some question whether the amount awarded is reasonable, Mr. Joseph said he believes the the adjudicators have been sensitive to the aboriginal experience and have been as fair as possible in assessing the stories of survivors.


  29. Ottawa taken to court over release of residential-schools documents

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail December 03 2012

    The commission examining the treatment of aboriginal children at Canada’s residential schools is taking the federal government to court for refusing to release millions of documents that were supposed to form a permanent and public record of the abuses committed.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – established in 2008 as part of the settlement between former students, the Canadian government, the churches that ran the schools, and others – has asked an Ontario Superior Court judge to decide whether Canada is obligated to hand over the material. Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 for the forced assimilation of more than 150,000 first nations, Inuit and Métis children at the schools. However, Ottawa’s failure to produce the documents threatens to undermine the aboriginal community’s faith in the government, says the Assembly of First Nations.

    The commission has been provided with almost a million documents over the past 12 months, all of them held by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. But it contends that millions, and possibly tens of millions, are being withheld. In addition to what may still be with Aboriginal Affairs, some are in the possession of other departments, some are stored within Library and Archives Canada, and some are church records obtained by the government.

    For instance, the commission has received no documents from the RCMP. Parents complained to police at the time their children were in the residential school system that their children were being abused or had even disappeared. Survivors believe there may be documents in the possession of the national force that would help them determine what happened to those complaints.

    The government cannot get away with releasing a million documents when millions more remain undisclosed, said Julian Falconer, the commission’s lawyer. “Put simply, a half loaf in the form of one million documents isn’t going to do it,” he said. “What is at stake here is control over history.”

    The commission said in an interim report last February that it had hit a wall in its attempts to pry the documents out of Ottawa’s hands. In an application for legal intervention, it says the stonewalling continues and the government has provided only a subset of an existing database of known material. “The commission is taking this step very reluctantly and with a sense that it has been left with no alternative,” Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission’s chairman, said in a statement.

    The commission’s application will be heard by Justice Stephen Goudge on Dec. 20 and 21 in Toronto. Judge Goudge is being asked to decide whether the commission’s term should be extended as a result of the delay in the production of the documents.

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  30. Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan, said the government remains committed to bringing closure to the legacy of residential schoolsand it will continue to honour the settlement. “We are working with 22 other government departments and with the TRC to ensure all relevant Indian Residential Schools related documents are made available to the TRC,” Mr. MacDonald said in an e-mail. “Canada aims to disclose all of its remaining documents relevant to the TRC’s mandate by June 30, 2013.”

    But the commission argues that Ottawa has “erected a myriad of obstacles” to avoid fulfilling its obligations.

    According to court documents filed by the commission, the government has taken issue with the commission’s interpretation of “relevant,” has not agreed to compile all of the documents housed in the Library and Archives in a organized manner, has withheld documents obtained from the churches, and has failed to produce documents produced by other departments.

    The commission argues that the government should not be allowed to rely on privacy considerations or cabinet confidence to keep the documents from being released. And it wants the government to bear what could end up being the very large cost of copying reams of original material that has been gathered over the decades.

    Ken Rubin, an expert in accessing government documentswho has been working on this issue for a number of weeks, said the government is still arguing over what is and is not a relevant record. “Get on with it fellows,” said Mr. Rubin, “this is not a matter that you are going to play petty politics with. This is national reconciliation and history that’s at stake.”


  31. Uncomfortable truths: Dr. Marie Wilson on the history of residential schools in Canada

    BY JONATHAN SAS, rabble.ca DECEMBER 6, 2012

    "The indigenous capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is almost beyond belief."

    Few Canadians can speak with a genuine understanding of that capacity. Dr. Marie Wilson, who sits on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is one of them.

    Commissioner Marie Wilson communicated this powerful message while in Montreal last week to deliver the annual Jeanne Sauvé Address. There she spoke to the incredible leadership being shown by survivors of Canada's Indian Residential Schools as thousands have courageously come forward to tell the country their stories.

    Established in 2008, the TRC is in year three of a five-year mandate scheduled to end in the spring of 2014.

    The commission's task is daunting: to record the experiences of children and anyone else who was impacted by the residential schools; to tell Canadians the truth about those experiences and the lasting impacts they have had; and finally, to guide a process of reconciliation "between and within Aboriginal families, communities, churches, governments, and Canadians."

    It's an ambitious and vitally important mission, one being made that much more difficult by the actions of the current Federal government. This past Monday, the Canadian Press reported that the TRC reluctantly decided to take the Feds to court over their refusal to release millions of documents the TRC believes are integral to fulfilling its mandate.

    Commissioner Wilson, however, never once mentioned the troubling lack of co-operation on the part of government in Montreal.

    Instead, her remarks communicated the "enormity" of the trauma wrought by the residential schools on Aboriginal Canadians and outlined how imperative the deeper engagement of non-Aboriginal Canadians remains if meaningful reconciliation is to be achieved.

    Truth and trauma

    Between the 1870s and 1996, over 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and put in some 130 government-funded, church-run schools across the country.

    The intent of the Residential Schools was to assimilate and to christianize. According to official government records and correspondence, "the fastest and most effective way to do that was to get at the families through the children."

    The Canadian government wished to 'kill the Indian in the child' so that within a generation there would be no more Indians in this country, and no more 'Indian problem.'

    "Try to imagine if these were your children," commissioner Wilson challenged the audience. "They are four, five, maybe six or seven years old, and a Priest, or an Indian Agent, or an RCMP officer comes to take that little one away from you to a place where you could not see them; where they were routinely punished if they tried to speak the language you taught them; where they could not be close to you, or comforted by their brothers or sisters; where food was foreign, punishment was swift and abuses, in many places, rampant."

    Just as difficult to imagine is that entire communities were emptied of children. As one of the survivors told the TRC of this phenomenon: when the children were taken, "even the dogs cried."

    Those same little children are among those Commissioner Wilson now recognizes and honours as this country's unsung leaders. Leaders because in spite of the severity of the trauma they endured, they had the determination to speak up in the 1980s and 1990s, while the last of the schools were still operating, to take legal steps to address the harms they’d experienced.

    Their courageous acts are what led to the largest out of court class action settlement in Canadian history in the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement; the settlement that established the TRC as a requirement.

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  32. Now, through the TRC's hearings and national events, a picture of just how severe and long-term the impacts of the residential school system are is emerging.

    High rates of addiction and mental health issues are commonplace in Aboriginal communities, the epidemic of suicide in many regions Commissioner Wilson described as “an urgent and national crisis.”

    She has little doubt these issues are related directly to "the continuing trauma of [having] separated children from parents." These traumas reverberate through generations. The effects of having been raised outside of the home, without loving parents and often under brutal conditions, have left deep and lasting impacts on the parenting capacity of many survivors.
    "I have had many, many survivors come forward and say each in their own words: the thing I have greatest regrets about is the way in which I raised my own children."

    Reconciliation: The real two solitudes

    In light of the enormity of the wrongs suffered by Aboriginal individuals, families and communities as a result of the residential schools, it's a wonder what's driving the desire for reconciliation?

    For many survivors, Commissioner Wilson said, it's their willingness to finally forgive themselves, their desire not "to carry other people’s garbage any longer."

    "They were told when they were little that they were bad, they were dirty, they were savage. As little children they took those messages literally and grew up thinking they were true."

    Listening to others share similar stories at commission hearings can help in the acknowledgement that this wasn’t their fault; that they were children, and the blame for the shame, anger, and other devastation lies with the adults who were then responsible.

    Speaking at the hearings, Commissioner Wilson said, can offer tremendous release for some survivors; especially for those that have been carrying around their story, and often their shame, as a secret for 50 or 60 years.

    "Some of the survivors will sit with their wife or husband right beside them and say: 'I have never told anyone this before, even my spouse!'"

    While the TRC continues to record the stories, meticulously stockpiling these truths and providing space for the sharing of experiences within Aboriginal families and communities, ensuring that non-Aboriginal communities hear the truth and take part in the reconciliation process remains a real challenge.

    "We must be honest about the real two solitudes in this country, that between Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens, and commit to doing tangible things to close the divide in awareness, understanding and relationships."

    Non-Aboriginal Canadians, Commissioner Wilson said, need to do something in response to the real harms and needs that survivors are coming forward to describe. They need to know that Canada cares, that Canadians are listening to them.

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  33. At least right now, that means non-Aboriginal Canadians, along with representatives of elected leadership and representatives of the media, need to show up to bear witness at the TRCs hearings, and to attend and cover the national events.

    It seems a small request in light of the immense injustices suffered.

    "We can no longer afford to be strangers to each other in this country that we now share. We could actually come to know each other not just as labels or hyphenated Canadians but rather as neighbors and as friends, as people that we care about."

    The alternative to opening up a genuine space for dialogue is the risk of repeating the betrayal and aggravating relations.

    Uncomfortable history, uncertain future

    For Commissioner Wilson, the residential schools are a sustained ribbon of story line in Canadian history. To date, they remain part of a “sustained ribbon of ignorance." It is a defining part of how Canada has come to where it is today, with hugely disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal peoples on the streets, in the prisons, in the emergency wards, and, troublingly, in the child welfare system.

    The fact remains that for many, if not most, non-Aboriginal Canadians, the legacy of the Residential Schools simply isn't on the radar. In turn, this (perceived) lack of interest means there are few if any media outlets that dedicate reporting staff with any consistency or attentiveness to Aboriginal issues, let alone to the important work of the TRC.

    "At some point we have to ask ourselves: How is it that we as a country devoted so much air time to the TRC say in South Africa but [which have] dedicated so little to our own on a sustained national basis."

    Commissioner Wilson said Canadians need to own the residential school system as Canadian history, not Aboriginal history. In an effort to do just that, the TRC has challenged Ministries of Education in provinces across the country to make the teaching of residential schools mandatory in the curriculum.

    That it remains absent from the curriculum of every province illustrates just how far there is to go in the quest to raise awareness, partnership building aside.

    But there have been some promising breakthroughs. The governments of Nunavut and the North West Territories have already taken up the curriculum challenge. No high school student in the North will graduates ignorant to the legacy of residential schools.

    Importantly, these governments worked directly with survivors, many of them able to capture their experiences in Indigenous language, to include their stories as part of the new curriculum.

    There is a limited window of opportunity, Commissioner Wilson pointed out, for the other provinces to do the same, to consult survivors within their own borders when making curriculum.
    "Most Canadians who do learn about the schools share a sense of outrage at what happened, are upset at not being told about it and have a genuine desire to help set things right."

    Institutionalizing the teaching of this fuller, if more brutal Canadian history, in our classrooms would at least be a start.

    "This is not comfortable subject matter," Commissioner Wilson said.
    "You have to get uncomfortable to get honest about all of this."

    To find out more about the TRC's work, visit their website at: www.trc.ca

    Hearings will begin in Quebec in January and the next national event will take place in Montreal on Wednesday April 24, 2013.

    Jonathan Sas is a 2012/2013 Sauvé Scholar . He is the former editor of The Mark News and holds an MA in political science from the University of British Columbia.


  34. Ottawa balked at high cost of releasing residential school records

    by GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail December 19, 2012

    It was meant to be a permanent and public record of a sad chapter in Canadian history.

    But it has evolved into a court battle between the government and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over who is responsible for collecting millions of documents about the country’s aboriginal residential schools.

    The government had intended the documents to be the basis of a resource centre at the University of Manitoba, where survivors and their families could find out what happened behind the walls of the church-run schools.

    Federal departments knew they were required to produce the material, but a senior bureaucrat has indicated they procrastinated for years, then dumped the burden on the commission when costs mounted and time ran short.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in 2008 as part of the $1.9-billion settlement between former students, the Canadian government, the churches, and others, to record the experience of the schools.

    It says it has neither the time nor the resources to search for the documents. It is taking the government to court for refusing to release the material that could shine light on the abuse of first nations, Inuit and Métis children during the schools’ 130-year history.

    Testimony in the case begins in Toronto on Thursday. In related proceedings, David Russell, the Aboriginal Affairs Department’s director of national research and analysis, painted a picture of departmental stonewalling and unwillingness to do the time-consuming work of the document retrieval.

    With a budget of $60-million spread over five years, the commission’s mandate runs out in July, 2014. It is required to establish the resource centre and, at the outset, the government agreed to hand over all relevant documents.

    Aboriginal Affairs has provided almost a million records and has promised to produce another 270,000 by next June.

    But, on Nov. 27, under prehearing cross-examination by commission lawyer Julian Falconer, Mr. Russell agreed two to five million documents are outstanding. And when asked if the number was closer to five million, Mr. Russell said “I don’t have any reason to doubt it.”

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  35. Although the government has indicated a willingness to turn over the documents that Aboriginal Affairs generated, many more were created by 23 other departments including Citizenship and Immigration and National Defence. Minutes of a May, 2010, interdepartmental meeting of senior bureaucrats who were managing the production of the records say the RCMP alone had found 60,000 documents related to the residential schools.

    The minutes of that meeting, which took place four years after the settlement agreement was signed, also state that Library and Archives Canada told those in attendance that it is the responsibility of the departments to collect the documents wherever they are.

    Mr. Russell told Mr. Falconer that some departments were reluctant to find and identify the records because they lacked expertise in how to conduct the search and because of the time and expense. The costs have been estimated at more than $100-million.

    In September, 2011, government officials called TRC to say the commission’s researchers – and not the departments – would be responsible for searching the archives and retrieving the documents.

    Mr. Russell agreed under questioning that the commission was in no better position to find the papers than departmental staff. “That wasn’t part of the discussion,” he said.

    The commission has neither the funds nor the manpower to do the job that the government has refused to do, Mr. Falconer said on Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail. “In fact, the evidence shows that Canada recognized the magnitude of the task and shifted it over to the TRC when it became clear what kind of funding investment they would have to make.”

    About 150,000 aboriginal children attended the schools. Many were forced from their homes as part of a program of assimilation. Physical and sexual abuse was rampant, and mortality rates were as high as 50 per cent at some of the institutions.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 on behalf of the federal government for the residential-schools experience, but the Assembly of First Nations says the refusal to release the documents threatens to undermine that gesture.

    “In my view, what this is really all about is a hot potato over history,” Mr. Falconer said. “Canada did not start moving, clearly from the evidence, until 2010. And when it became clear to Canada that it couldn’t meet its obligations, it simply changed the ground rules of its obligations.”


  36. Presenting Indian Residential Schools in Books for Young Children

    A Review of Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell, As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie, and Arctic Stories by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak

    Residential School Stories http://residentialschoolstories.wordpress.com/ March 19, 2009

    Children’s books about Indian residential schools have been published in North America for several years, and there is now a relatively large body of work in this area. In Canada, a growing number of children’s books on this subject are being published, and these books have been garnering more attention recently as public knowledge of the history and legacy of residential schools is (hopefully) increasing and as parents, teachers and librarians look for resources with which to teach children about this subject.

    As Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin have demonstrated in their critical reviews, books for children about residential schools vary in quality, legitimacy and accuracy (Seale and Slapin 56-83) . The notion of accuracy is a difficult one with regard to the history of residential schools – while common features existed among all schools and, on a certain level, a common experience was shared by all the children who attended them, individual experiences were personal and impressionistic, and each child’s suffering was unique. Seale and Slapin repeatedly point out that attempts to paint an accurate, objective picture of the residential school experience in books for children often fall short (Seale and Slapin 56-83) . Moreover, non-fiction about this subject is perhaps inappropriate for very young readers, because to explain residential schools to children in a straightforward, expository manner would result in necessary over-simplification of events, their causes and consequences – something that Seale and Slapin find especially offensive. If not made carefully, efforts to present this history in conventional history textbooks or even in semi-fictional accounts can not only seem sterile, but can do a great disservice and even disrespect to the complexity and variety of emotion, memory and feeling that are central to this experience.

    By contrast, fiction is a uniquely powerful medium in which to write about the residential schools, and can be used more fruitfully to examine this subject and to teach children about it. Both fictional and semi-fictional stories allow for a richer exploration of experiences, impressions and emotions, and compel readers to consider the greater importance of this subject beyond the simple “facts” of history. The narrative format, therefore, is a particularly effective means of introducing young children to this subject.

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  37. Several books have been written for older elementary and secondary school readers about residential schools in Canada, notably My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling and No Time to Say Goodbye by Sylvia Olsen. Like most books on this subject, these two stories focus on life inside the schools and present the harsh and sometimes graphic details of the residential school experience.

    While the history of residential schools is also a suitable subject for younger children, it must be presented in a different way and to be introduced more subtly and gently than in books for older children and young adults. A handful of books have been published that do a wonderful job of presenting this history to younger readers, three of which will be explored here: Shi-shi-etko by Nicola I. Campbell, As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie, and Arctic Stories by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak.

    Shi-shi-etko and As Long as the Rivers Flow both delicately introduce the topic of residential schools to children by presenting it as the backdrop to personal stories instead of as the main setting. The authors focus on ideas and emotions evoked by the thought of residential school, rather than describing the details of school life. Both stories are set in the summer before the main character leaves for school for the first time, and the specter of residential school is used to create the context for stories in which the authors’ main purpose is to portray the importance of family, home, memories, and traditions. The residential school system had many consequences for aboriginal children and their families, but these two authors make this complex story simple and compelling by focusing exclusively on the theme of loss. The power of these stories comes from illustrating (both with words and with beautiful pictures) what will be lost to the children: their homes, families, customs, lifestyle, and the opportunity to learn from their elders.

    As Long as the Rivers Flow is a picture book for upper elementary school readers that tells a fictionalized story of real people and events. Loyie does an especially good job of showing the significance of traditional knowledge that is passed down from elders to children. In sharp contrast to the type of education provided by the schools, Loyie shows that children’s education within aboriginal families was much more holistic and comprehensive, and children learned constantly by watching their older relatives. Though not mentioned explicitly, the dichotomy between these two ways of learning is a strong current that underlies this story and asks the reader to contemplate just what these children were supposed to learn at school and what knowledge they would lose by being taken from their families.

    In Shi-shi-etko, her book for younger readers, Campbell also effectively shows the importance of traditional knowledge and the significance of passing that knowledge from generation to generation. Her storytelling uses fewer words than Loyie’s, and the impact of her story comes from repetition and the patterns she makes with those words. Even more so than in Loyie’s book, the richly coloured, impressionistic illustrations contribute a great deal to the story’s lasting impression.

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  38. Both stories present the importance of memory as a main theme, as the characters make conscious efforts to take in and absorb as much as possible before leaving home — going to favourite places, listening to favourite stories, spending time with favourite relatives — so that they will have memories to cling to while they are away at school. This theme conveys the message that most children did not want to go to residential school and that going was a great hardship on them and their families. Both of these stories are deeply moving, and they effectively convey the sadness and loss of the residential school experience without getting into subject matter that is perhaps too mature for younger readers.

    Residential school also serves as the background to “Agatha Goes to School,” a tale in Michael Kusigak’s Arctic Stories. Like the other two stories discussed above, residential school is presented as a backdrop that sets the scene for the events taking place, rather than being the focal point of the story. However, this story is very different from the other two — it is much more cheerful than the other stories, and the author avoids dwelling on the negative aspects of residential school. The main character in the story decides “not to think bad thoughts… besides, there were some good things that happened in this awful place.” Kusugak briefly touches on the fear and sadness that come with leaving home and being in a strange place without family, but this is not what his tale is about.

    Although the story is set at a mission in the Northwest Territories where the main character goes to school, the reader does not learn much at all about school life. The action takes place outdoors on the lake near the school where the children ski and skate, and the plot is centered on the events of a single afternoon. What is most striking about this story is that, in contrast to many other stories about residential school, the author was able to find some humour in the situation and to show children being themselves and having fun. In his short afterword, Kusugak mentions very briefly that abuses took place at the schools and that some of the priests and nuns mistreated the children. “But,” he writes, “there were some good things that happened; we got a good education. And then there were the skis, the skates…” This story suggests to readers that children attending residential school were sometimes able to find some enjoyment and have some positive experiences, even in the midst of a terrible situation.

    Fiction provides a valuable medium for telling stories that are perhaps too difficult or complicated to tell in conventional non-fiction books for children. These three books represent the great potential of this genre to introduce young children to the subject of residential schools, and to lay a foundation for further reading about this subject as older children and young adults. We can hope that these books will serve to promote more discussion of this subject in homes, schools and libraries, and provide a catalyst for more books like these to be published in the near future.

    Works Cited:

    Campbell, Nicola I. Shi-shi-etko. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.

    Kusugak, Michael Arvaarluk. Arctic Stories. Illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka. Toronto: Annick Press Ltd., 1998.

    Loyie, Larry and Constance Brissenden. As Long As the Rivers Flow. Illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2002.

    Olsen, Sylvia. No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 2001.

    Seale, Doris and Beverly Slapin, eds. A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2005.

    Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 1992.


  39. Ottawa ordered to provide all residential schools documents

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission took federal government to court over denial of millions of documents

    The Canadian Press January 30, 2013

    The federal government is obliged to turn over its archival records on Indian residential schools to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an Ontario court decided Thursday.

    In his decision, Justice Stephen Goudge said the obligation to provide the materials is clear from the settlement agreement that established the commission.

    "The plain meaning of the language is straightforward," Goudge said. "It is to provide all relevant documents to the TRC."

    The decision comes in an increasingly acrimonious dispute between Ottawa and the commission over millions of government documents the commission says it needs to fulfil its core mandate.

    The government maintained it had no obligation to provide the records in Library and Archives Canada.

    The commission, under Justice Murray Sinclair, argued Ottawa's intransigence would make it impossible to complete its work on budget as required by July 1, 2014.

    "We're grateful to be able to continue the commission's work of gathering and protecting for future generations documents that are relevant to the history of the Indian residential schools," Sinclair said in a statement.

    "We especially acknowledge the clarity of Justice Goudge's decision."

    Part of the commission's mandate is to help in a process of reconciliation, while yet another is the "creation of a legacy" that includes collection of records, taking statements from those involved, and classifying and preserving the materials.

    "Canada's documents, wherever they were held, would have been understood as a very important historical resource for this purpose," Goudge said.

    Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the government was reviewing the decision.

    "The decision is anything but clear-cut," Duncan told the House of Commons during question period Wednesday. "The discussion in terms of relevant documents is left somewhat open by the judge. We believe that we've been meeting the spirit and intent [of the agreement], but if there is a slightly different interpretation we will meet the spirit and intent of the judge's decision."

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  40. The residential schools system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s, saw about 150,000 native kids taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of "civilizing" First Nations.

    Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the schools and the Canadian government. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

    In its submissions to the court, the commission argued the Canadian government was trying to renege on its legal deal with Aboriginal Peoples because sticking to the terms would cost too much.

    Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represented the commission, called it a "truly landmark" judgment.

    "The court's answers to the commission's reference will ensure that the dark chapter in Canadian history that is the residential school story will never be forgotten," Falconer said.

    In opposing the court application, the federal government argued the commission had no legal standing to take the matter to court.

    It also maintained its only obligation was to throw open the doors to the Library and Archives Canada to commission researchers.

    Goudge disagreed on both counts.

    "While Canada is not obliged to turn over its originals, it is required to compile all relevant documents in an organized manner for review by the TRC," the justice said.

    Goudge also weighed in on the dispute over what constitutes "relevant" documents, saying not every document that mentions residential schools is key to the commission's mandate.

    An evaluation of relevance is context specific and the obligation on the government to produce documents must be reasonable.

    "Suffice it to say that Canada's obligation ... is to provide the documents in its possession or control that are reasonably required to assist the TRC to tell the story of the legacy of Indian residential schools," Goudge said.


  41. Residential school survivor says compensation process failed him

    Despite severe abuse, John Mantla's IAP claim was denied

    CBC News February 11, 2013

    A residential school survivor says the Independent Assessment Process failed him and other students.
    John Mantla, from Behchoko, N.W.T., says he experienced severe physical abuse at school but his claim for compensation was denied.

    That's the case for 10 per cent of all IAP applicants.

    The process is a way for former residential school students who suffered abuse at the schools to get compensation. It’s separate from the Common Experience Payment, but the IAP is for more serious claims of sexual and physical abuse.

    Mantla says his three sisters and two brothers got paid and he doesn't understand why his experience of abuse was treated differently.

    At the age of seven, Mantla says he was taken from his home and sent to residential school in Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

    While attending La Pointe Hall in November 1967, Mantla says a priest intentionally hit him with a hockey stick. He was hospitalized for a month and his nose and eye were permanently damaged.

    Four other survivors and a doctor confirmed his story, but remembering the details is a struggle for Mantla.

    “Because it's way back over forty years, and when you’re young back then, you don't remember that kind of stuff."

    He says that’s the reason his application was denied.

    Unlike the Common Experience Payment process, the IAP is built on court rules. Survivors don't only have to prove they went to residential school; they also have to prove they were abused.

    Lawyer Steven Cooper has represented former students.

    "Your memory has to be sufficient enough that the adjudicator both believes you and feels that they can rely upon you, on the evidence, so they can make a decision on whether you were injured or assaulted or abused in a way that's compensable, " Cooper said.

    Mantla was sent to a doctor in Calgary who assessed his memory and condition. The doctor’s report said it was highly likely that he suffered mild to moderate brain damage as a result of the injury from the hockey stick.

    The doctor also said Mantla likely suffered permanent memory loss as a direct result of the incident.

    Compensation would help break cycle, survivor says

    The average Independent Assessment Process compensation amount is $125,000.

    Mantla says that money would have helped him break what he calls a cycle.

    "It affects my kids. Because of alcoholism, none of them graduated."

    Mantla says the injury and his time at residential school has defined his life. Because of his criminal record, he cannot get a job anywhere the public is involved.

    "It doesn't seem to go away. There's alcohol involved, there's jail involved, there's criminal charges involved. There's going to treatments, but still it doesn't help. It stays in your head."

    Mantla has seen a psychologist but he says it hasn’t helped either. That's why he went through the Independent Assessment Process.

    "Nobody's going to talk about it. We are too ashamed. We are too ashamed to talk about it," he said.

    “You're going to die with it."

    A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students.

    The next national event for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be in Montreal in April.


  42. At least 3,000 died in residential schools, research shows

    Dormitories for aboriginal children in disgraced system were disease 'breeding grounds'

    The Canadian Press February 18, 2013

    At least 3,000 children, including four under the age of 10 found huddled together in frozen embrace, are now known to have died while they were attending Canada's aboriginal residential schools, according to new unpublished research.

    While deaths have long been documented as part of the disgraced residential school system, the findings are the result of the first systematic search of government, school and other records.

    "These are actual confirmed numbers," Alex Maass, research manager with the Missing Children Project, told The Canadian Press from Vancouver.

    "All of them have primary documentation that indicates that there's been a death, when it occurred, what the circumstances were."

    The number could rise further as more documents — especially from government archives — come to light.

    The largest single killer, by far, was disease.

    For decades starting in about 1910, tuberculosis was a consistent killer — in part because of widespread ignorance over how diseases were spread.

    "The schools were a particular breeding ground for [tuberculosis]," Maass said. "Dormitories were incubation wards."

    The Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-1919 also took a devastating toll on students — and in some cases staff. For example, in one grim three-month period, the disease killed 20 children at a residential school in Spanish, Ont., the records show.

    While a statistical analysis has yet to be done, the records examined over the past few years also show children also died of malnutrition or accidents. Schools consistently burned down, killing students and staff. Drownings or exposure were another cause.

    In all, about 150,000 First Nations children went through the church-run residential school system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s. In many cases, native kids were forced to attend under a deliberate federal policy of "civilizing" Aboriginal Peoples.

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  43. Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Some died fleeing their schools.

    One heart-breaking incident that drew rare media attention at the time involved the deaths of four boys — two aged 8 and two aged 9 — in early January 1937.

    A Canadian Press report from Vanderhoof, B.C., describes how the four bodies were found frozen together in slush ice on Fraser Lake, barely a kilometre from home.

    The "capless and lightly clad" boys had left an Indian school on the south end of the lake "apparently intent on trekking home to the Nautley Reserve," the article states.

    A coroner's inquest later recommended "excessive corporal discipline" of students be "limited."

    The records reveal the number of deaths only fell off dramatically after the 1950s, although some fatalities occurred into the 1970s.

    "The question I ask myself is: Would I send my child to a private school where there were even a couple of deaths the previous year without looking at it a little bit more closely?" Maass said.

    "One wouldn't expect any death rates in private residential schools."

    In fact, Maass said, student deaths were so much part of the system, architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries that were laid out in advance of the building.

    Maass, who has a background in archeology, said researchers had identified 50 burial sites as part of the project.

    About 500 of the victims remain nameless. Documentation of their deaths was contained in Department of Indian Affairs year-end reports based on information from school principals.

    The annual death reports were consistently done until 1917, when they abruptly stopped.

    "It was obviously a policy not to report them," Maass said.

    In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the Canadian government and the churches that ran the 140 schools. A $1.9-billion settlement of the lawsuit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The research — carried out under the auspices of the commission — has involved combing through more than one million government and other records, including nuns' journal entries.

    The longer-term goal is to make the information available at a national research centre.


  44. At least 45 died in Yukon residential schools, says researcher

    Records document at least 300 deaths at Northern residential schools

    CBC News February 20, 2013

    A Truth and Reconciliation Commission researcher says at least 45 students died while attending residential schools in the Yukon.

    Across the North, researcher Alex Maass said she has accounted for 300 deaths.

    Maass, a research manager with the Missing Children Project, said after researching cemetery records and wading through a million documents they can now prove one out of every 50 children forced to attend Indian Residential Schools never made it home. However, she says the records are still incomplete and in some cases they've been able to show they are not accurate.

    She said the official records don't account for all of the children's bodies in the schools’ cemeteries, and added the problem is evident at Northern schools like the one at Fort Providence, N.W.T.

    “There's a very large cemetery associated with the Fort Providence school that is estimated to have close to 300 individuals in it — most of them are children,” she said.

    “It doesn't match up. What we see on the ground doesn't match with the documentation.”

    Maass said most of the children died from disease, however she said there were also many accidental deaths attributed to drownings, fires or other accidents.


  45. Angels Story: Trapped in a Violent World

    Brutal forces 'funnel' some aboriginal women into prostitution, say advocates who oppose legalization. A multimedia report.

    By Krystle Alarcon and Sam Eifling March 4, 2013

    Angel Gates has been trying to exit prostitution ever since she was "turned out" at the age of 11 in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Money issues, addictions and lack of support services have held her back from escaping.

    She's not alone. The harsh realities of what women like Gates go through have caused national aboriginal women's groups to take a stance against calls to legalize prostitution, saying what's needed instead is a commitment to creating alternatives for women facing brutal pressures to become, and remain, sex workers.

    Gates says she was "tied up, blindfolded and gagged," on her first day at the Balmoral Hotel on East Hastings.

    She does not blame her mother, a former prostitute herself, for forcing her to turn her first trick to pay for her own addictions.

    "She did the best she could with the tools she was given. I know that. I miss her a lot," Gates says. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) all the traumas Gates has been through, including losing custody of her children and having to kill a john in self-defence, she walks around with eyes on the back of her head. She's the type who can hear two conversations at once and does not take well to pity. (Gates shares more of her views and story in the video at the top of this article.)

    Her mother's picture now hangs in her aunt Bernie Williams' community space, The Sacred Circle, as part of a collection of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the Downtown Eastside.

    'It breaks my heart'

    Gates and Williams hail from the Haida nation of northern B.C. Williams has been begging Gates to stop ever since she found out she was prostituting. "I understand why, you know, why you've ended up down here. It breaks my heart every time I see you," Williams says to Angel.

    "I just look at these pictures and I hope to God I never have to carry you."

    Williams has been advocating for an end to prostitution for three decades now -- her fire has never been quelled since her two sisters and mother are among the missing and murdered First Nations women in the Downtown Eastside.

    That burning yearning for justice kindled a strength in her to walk hundreds of miles with other aboriginal women to bring attention to the missing and murdered women. They trekked along the so-called "Highway of Tears" in 2009, from Kamloops to Winnipeg in 2010, and from Vancouver to Parliament Hill in 2011. Williams co-founded the Walk4Justice marches withGladys Radek, a Gitxsan/Wet'suwet'en woman.

    Williams believes social forces such as poverty, residential schools and the lingering effects of colonization have funneled aboriginal women into prostitution. "These are women who have been so well entrenched in violence that they think this is all they are worth," she says. "They didn't end up down here just because they wanted to get away (from home), no."

    Roots of exploitation

    According to a report in 2005 of prostitution in Vancouver, 52 per cent out of a sample of 100 people interviewed identified themselves as aboriginal (First Nations, Metis or Inuit). A startling link may be drawn with childhood abuse: 96 per cent said they were sexually abused, 81 per cent said they were physically abused as minors.

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  46. A separate study on trafficked and prostituted aboriginal youth in the Downtown Eastside connected Canada's historic residential schools to prostitution. "The impact of the residential schools is illustrated by harmful behaviours adopted by many of the survivors like alcoholism, compulsive gambling, substance abuse, and high incidences of sexual problems including sexual abuse and incest. These intergenerational effects of trauma leech outward from the victims to touch all the people surrounding them, like parents, spouses, children and friends," the report states.

    Robyn Bourgeois, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto whose forthcoming dissertation is titled Pathways of Resistance: The Politics of Addressing Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada, 1980-2010, agrees with this systemic analysis of prostitution. In her research, she found that the prostitution of aboriginal women was used as a means to prevent mixed marriages with western men, to enforce residential schools, to facilitate the widespread removal of children from aboriginal families into the child welfare system -- the so-called "sixties scoop."

    "It is one of those systems of oppression that has been used to establish the inferiority of aboriginal women in particular in order to justify colonialism again and again and again. And it slips really nicely with that language that aboriginal women are dirty, promiscuous easy 'squaws,' right?"

    'Scared to death'

    Bourgeois, who is Lubicon Cree, is also a former prostitute, trafficked by one of those "boyfriend" types of pimps. Although she only prostituted for a few years, the experience scarred her for life.

    In an interview with The Tyee, she recalled the first day she was forced to prostitute in Vancouver. Her pimp took her to a hotel, where they "were daydreaming about how beautiful it was." He then invited her to a nice stroll in the park, by the dock. There, he forced her head underwater.

    "I was freaked out of my mind and scared to death and I knew what was going on. But you take these drugs and you take a drink and you can forget that. You do what you have to do," she laments.

    Bourgeois was 18 at the time. Ten years later, she is releasing her PhD dissertation on violence against aboriginal women and girls in Canada. She knows her privileges and "pledged every ounce of it to ending this violence," she says in a blog interview.

    Like Williams, Bourgeois also sees family as the only way out of prostitution right now. "It was family who had resources who were able to help me," Bourgeois says. "Either you have somebody in your family who really loves and cares about you, or you go out in a pine box and that's it," Williams echoes.

    State responsibility

    The personal has become political for First Nations women such as Gates, Williams and Bourgeois. They strongly oppose the current cases launched in Ontario and B.C. to legalize brothels, pimping, street transactions of prostitution and to make sex work a constitutional right. These cases are better known as the Bedford case and the Sex Workers United Against Violence v. Canada case.

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  47. Gates does not agree with the legalization of the whole sex industry, but also thinks that prostitutes should not be criminalized. "Men go to john school and women go to jail. I think they should fix it so the women are safer. Legalizing only puts little kids out on the street and makes it okay. We don't come into prostitution by accident. We're made this way. It's some form of pain that you put there in the first place, usually sex crimes when you're little. I don't think it's okay," she says.

    Gates, who still lives in the Downtown Eastside, says that Canada should create more harm-reduction services such as those implemented in the neighbourhood. She says that as an "active prostitute," she does not see the eradication of prostitution as realistic.

    Bourgeois, Williams and advocates of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network (AWAN) do. They prefer the "Nordic model" over legalization -- where prostitutes are decriminalized and pimps and johns are criminalized. The model, implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway, is a three-prong approach to slowly ending the demand to prostitution.

    "This model includes law reform that criminalizes the male demand for paid sex and decriminalizes prostituted women, offers comprehensive social programs to all women and girls, and educates the public about prostitution as a form of male violence against women and girls. We, Indigenous women, believe this model encourages true social change that works in our interest," AWAN states in a 2011 Women's Worlds Conference declaration.

    'Not asking the hard questions'

    Samantha Grey, a member of AWAN, vehemently disagrees with the way the Bedford case would potentially change prostitution laws in Canada. "The women who are doing the Bedford case do not represent the majority of women in prostitution, they represent that very small minority of women who claim that that is their choice. And the sad part is that they're always the ones more vocal because they have the freedom."

    Another national aboriginal women's group, the Native Women's Association of Canada,intervened in the Bedford case and agree with the Nordic model. Their position is based on the582 cases they documented of missing and murdered aboriginal women throughout Canada as of 2010.

    Grey says that there also needs to be more exiting services for women to leave the prostitution. "We don't want safer, we want safe. We don't want a band-aid solution, Grey says.

    Grey echoes other First Nations women advocates in declaring that the discussion around poverty, addiction and prostitution is too limited, even at the very top levels of policy and legal decision-making. "They're not asking the hard questions," says Grey. "They're not asking the questions that need to be answered in order to make prostitution non-existent."

    to see the numerous links embedded in this article and to view the mulit-media go to:


  48. The Healthy Aboriginal Network

    Non-profit promotion of health, literacy and wellness.

    We create comic books on health and social issues for youth. The books we have in stock are listed below. Please note the comics on youth health issues, gambling awareness and living with FASD have all sold out. There are no immediate plans to reprint, as we need an anchor order of 10,000 copies in order to get cost effective pricing.

    Lost Innocence- is a fictional story (but based on documented real life experiences of survivors) of a brother and sister's residential school experience in the 1930's. The sneak preview is 20 pages but the completed book will be 64 pages and has a truth and reconciliation theme. Because of the length this book costs $6 each.


    to view the rest of the comic books in this series go to:


  49. Facebook sweat lodge, the online resurgence of native spirituality

    By Waubgeshig Rice, CBC News March 16, 2013

    About The Author
    Waubgeshig Rice is an Ottawa-based CBC journalist, documentary maker and author, whose book Midnight Sweatlodge, about growing up on the reserve, was published in the fall of 2011.

    Smudging, sweat lodges, drum songs. If you were to ask most Canadians what comprises indigenous spirituality in this country, those are the images that would likely come to mind.

    These are common practices, integral elements of many indigenous cultures that can transcend language and local affiliations.

    What's more, they are the ones often relayed to non-native Canadians through mainstream media, largely because they are often the only regular ceremonies that media and spectators in general are allowed to take pictures of — though only with an elder's blessing.

    Not surprisingly, then, that this is what most people think of when they contemplate "native spirituality."

    But that is a much too general term to describe the very different and vibrant beliefs and ceremonies that span this great landscape, and which are now starting to surface again, spurred on by a young, more assertive generation and the investigative tools of social media.

    It's common now to see Facebook groups dedicated to the organization of the once-banned sun dances in Western Canada, and even traditional seasonal Anishinaabe ceremonies in the east.

    In fact, you might say there is even a sort of spiritual resurgence online, with young indigenous people no longer ashamed of their past, and using social media both to plan ceremonies and events, and mine internet resources to breathe new life into the old ways.

    Most Canadians likely aren't aware of many of these older ceremonies, and even indigenous people themselves don't practice them with much continuity or prevalence.

    That's because for a long time in Canada, it was forbidden to do so.

    In 1876, the federal government passed the Indian Act to give itself exclusive authority over Indians and their lands.

    In the decades that followed, a long list of amendments were passed that were direct affronts to indigenous culture, language and general lifestyle.

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  50. One of the more obscene amendments came in 1885, prohibiting "religious ceremonies and dances."

    In other words, Canada made it illegal for Indians to pray and practice their spiritual beliefs the way they had for millennia prior to contact with Europeans.

    These Indian Act changes also led directly to the establishment of the residential school system, mostly Catholic- and Anglican-run institutions that were essentially designed to wipe away indigenous identity.

    Traditional beliefs and ceremonies took a serious beating for decades.

    But despite those federally imposed hardships, indigenous ceremonies survived, thanks in large part to the dedication of certain people and their covert methods of keeping them alive.

    The sweat lodge, a healing and purification ceremony performed by many indigenous cultures across Canada, is one such example.

    The ceremony involves an elaborate process of building a small, covered structure and heating stones in an outdoor fire until they're glowing.

    The stones (or "grandfathers", as they're called in the Anishinaabe way) are brought into the lodge to heat it up and create a steamy effect similar to European saunas.

    It's hardly a discreet process and, once it was forbidden by the federal government, Indian agents would break up the ceremonies if they came across them on reserves.

    So many communities started holding sweat lodges under the darkness of night in an almost clandestine way, far from the abusive watch of the Indian agent.

    There are many other stories like this, such as children in residential schools practicing traditional songs in their language whenever a nun or priest wasn't in earshot.

    Still, there's no doubt that, culturally, much was lost. But now, as newer generations start to reclaim the ways of their ancestors, many of these ways are slowly flourishing again.

    Indigenous people were once shamed out of practicing their spirituality, or forced to hide it.

    But that shame has slowly evaporated over time, and people are turning to fasts and sun dances, perhaps in part to reconcile themselves and come to terms with some of those old abuses.

    These are clearly more than just token gestures. A sweat lodge ceremony can take seven hours or more to carry out, while fasts and sun dances can go on for days, so there is a substantial time commitment here that is being undertaken.

    Today, though, we are free to practice our beliefs out in the open, and these different types of ceremonies can be found all over the internet.

    It is inappropriate to share teachings or ceremonial protocol this way. But organizing spiritual events online is proof that the sweat lodge under darkness has swung completely the other way around.

    Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of most of these ceremonies is that they are very inclusive.

    Indigenous nations have long accepted and embraced newcomers, as long as they approach in a respectful and positive way.


    Related Stories on CBC

    Listen: The sweat lodge documentary on The Current http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2011/06/03/the-sweat-lodge-documentary/

    8th Fire: Aboriginal peoples, Canada and the way forward http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/8thfire/

  51. Tears flow as residential school victims share stories of abuse and heartache


    EDMONTON - Crumpled tissues damp with the tears of residential school survivors were collected in a small basket Saturday as men and women recounted traumatic childhood memories that torment them.

    The Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Edmonton Saturday to collect statements, both privately and during public sharing circles, at Boyle Street Community Services, at 10116 105 Ave. It’s the first time the court-ordered national commission has held such an event at an inner-city agency.

    “This is a missing story in our work,” said Willie Littlechild, one of three commissioners.

    “We’ve been to over 500 communities across Canada over the last three and a half years, listening to stories about the residential school experience,” said Littlechild, a lawyer and former MP originally from Hobbema.

    “It’s been very difficult to hear from the street, for example, homeless people, and their story is critically important. We were ordered by the court to try to find out the truth about residential schools ... and they make the story complete. So it’s important for us to come to the community as opposed to asking them to come to us.”

    The commission was established as part of a residential schools settlement that included compensation and an apology in 2008 from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former residential school students.

    About a dozen men and women participating in a morning sharing circle at Boyle Street Community Services sat on folding chairs around a video camera that recorded their statements.

    In the centre of the room was a small bundle, two pouches of tobacco wrapped in layers of coloured broadcloth and tied with blue ribbon. Cultural adviser Gary Moostoos will later take that bundle to a sweat lodge, pray over it and offer it up in a sacred fire.

    The tissues collected during the sharing circle will also be burned in a ceremony meant honour the cleansing and healing power of those tears, said Brenda Reynolds, who facilitated the sharing circle and works with the Indian Residential Schools resolution health support program.

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  52. More than 130 residential schools operated with government support in Canada. More than 150,000 students passed through those schools. Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and placed in the church-run schools where they were isolated from their culture and language and, in some cases, physically and sexually abused.

    Alberta had about 24 residential schools, the most in Canada.

    Survivors told stories Saturday of lasting anger that got them in fights as adults or in trouble with the law. Some dulled their painful memories with substance abuse — alcohol, heroin, sniffing gas.

    Myles, who did not want his last name published, sobbed as he described the sexual violation and mental and physical cruelty that started when he was a five-year-old boy and lasted until he was 12. The fear and suffering he endured for most of his childhood at a residential school in Wabasca still haunts him daily, Myles said.

    “They say it’s going to end. Believe me, it’s never going to end,” said Myles, 58.

    “People tell me that’s in the past. We’re the ones that feel the pain. We’re the ones that feel the hurt. We’re the ones that have been destroyed, our thoughts and our minds.”

    He described being slapped, choked, grabbed by the hair or ears, stripped of his clothes and being sexually abused. He learned to keep quiet, shut off his emotions. Some students committed suicide, he said.

    “My spirit was getting weaker. My body was getting heavier, so heavy, like I was carrying a big tree that I was going to carry for the rest of my life,” Myles told the group.

    The smell off coffee still sparks flashbacks of frightening mornings waking up at the school, he said.

    “Now, today, it haunts me every day. When I try to sleep, I hear footsteps.”

    Myles said his children urged him to attend Saturday’s event and “tell it all, Daddy,” so he did.

    “I’ve got to keep going and work on myself,” Myles said, exhaling heavily.


  53. Residential school childhood artwork repatriated by adult survivors

    Alberni Valley News April 3, 2013

    Debora Steel is editor of Ha-Shilth-Sa, http://www.hashilthsa.com/ the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s newspaper.

    It took a long time for Georgina Cootes to get used to art teacher Robert Aller, a volunteer who worked with students of the Alberni Indian Residential School from 1959 to 1966. It took a long time not to be afraid that he would do to her what other adults had done to her in the school, she said.

    “But he didn’t.”

    Aller instead provided a safe space for Cootes and other First Nations children from AIRS to create; to see something in their mind’s eye and put it down with paint on paper without fear of reprisal.

    And what they created were scenes of home, of their culture, of a way of life far from a notorious place that would become synonymous with physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse perpetrated against Indian children.

    Cootes painted a picture of the beach at her home in Kildonan. She explained that she deliberately chose not to include the houses there, because their absence represented the children taken from home to attend residential school.

    On March 30, Cootes was reunited with her painting in an emotional repatriation ceremony that took place at Alberni Athletic Hall. The family of Robert Aller, who died in 2008, were in attendance to witness the event.

    (In addition to his work at AIRS, Aller studied with Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer and in 1965 helped form the Community Arts Council of the Alberni Valley with Tseshaht artist George Clutesi and others.)

    Art teacher Aller had asked each child for a painting that he could keep, and after his death, the collection of 47 paintings went to the University of Victoria.

    For the past two years, UVic visual anthropologist Dr. Andrea Walsh has worked to find the artists to reconnect them with their art.

    The original paintings were carried into the hall behind Nuu-chah-nulth drummers and set beside framed copies. The copies were presented to the artists and it was up to each of them to either take the original as well, or ask the university to continue to care for it.

    Maquinna Lewis George, head chief of Ahousaht, the largest First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island, asked UVic to hold on to his paintings—one of a Halloween pumpkin and one of his father’s fishing boat.

    “The best time of my life was fishing with my dad,” he said.

    The paintings are to “come home” if the Nuu-chah-nulth ever build a museum or cultural centre of their own, Maquinna said through speaker Ron Hamilton.

    And there was another proviso. His story was to accompany his paintings wherever they are stored—on this Maquinna was adamant.

    “It’s critically important to him that along with those paintings goes his story—unchanged—in his words, not prettied up in any way,” Hamilton explained.

    continued in next comment...

  54. Maquinna remembered being very excited about the art class, because it got him away from the school and the early bedtime of six o’clock. He remembered the difficult time that the students had at AIRS and he choked up at the memories the paintings brought back.

    He had never told his story publicly. He wasn’t done with his healing, he said, but he wanted to share.

    When he was about six years old he got up early one morning to use the bathroom. A supervisor decided to teach the child a lesson about school rules. Maquinna said the supervisor told him to never, ever go to the bathroom again without his permission.

    “He said ‘pull down your pajamas,’ and he strapped me. That’s the story that goes with (his paintings)... When you want to go and use the washroom, nobody should say you can’t,” said Maquinna.

    Jeff Cook, a ranked chief with Huu-ay-aht First Nation, was the first to receive his framed print, choosing to leave his original painting of a black duck with Walsh. So important is the painting to the chief that he intends to reproduce it on his curtain, a ceremonial draping that shows the history of his people.

    Cook said there is little that remains from that time in his life. He said he became very emotional to have something from his youth.

    Charlie Max Lincoln of Kincolith in Nisga’a territory dressed in his traditional regalia for the re-uniting ceremony. His picture was coloured with rockets heading to the moon, an eagle soaring and the boat of his father.

    “When I first saw it, my heart nearly stopped,” he said. Aller had told him to ‘draw whatever your heart feels.’

    The art classes allowed the children to remember the people they came from; unlike the school environment where children were strapped for speaking or singing in their traditional languages, he said.

    Lincoln also took time to thank a Miss Joseph who worked in the kitchen at AIRS. “She was our mother,” he said. Joseph provided protection, some extra food from time to time and hugs when they were needed, Lincoln explained. She always told him to be proud of where he came from.

    Shelley Chester never knew her mom, Phyllis Tate, who gave her up for adoption. Still, seeing her mother’s paintings was an emotional experience. Chester choked up when declaring she didn’t know what she wanted to do with the originals.

    “To touch something that she created is really something,” Chester said.

    Myrna Cranmer said it’s been 41 years since she left residential school. She understood the label survivor, she said. “I get it, but I prefer warrior.” The school, she explained, made her tough.

    The artwork was first displayed at the Truth and Reconciliation regional event in Victoria last April. The works left with the university can be seen in an upcoming exhibit at UVic’s Legacy Art Gallery located at 630 Yates St. starting May 8.


  55. Sihkos’ Story: Residential school remembrances of a little brown ‘white’ girl part 1 December 27, 2012

    by Jane Glennon (Woodland Cree), B.A., B.S.W., M.S.W., is a retired social worker, counsellor and teacher who currently lives in Prince Albert, SK.

    It has taken me a long time — literally decades — to try and tell my story, a story that I’ve never disclosed in its entirety to anyone, not even family. Accompanying me on my first steps down this path are the words of Paulo Coelho, the brilliant Brazilian writer whose works have sold over 100 million copies in sixty-nine languages. Coelho is among the authors I most admire and his writings truly inspire and motivate me, and after reaching out to him for counsel on the writing of my biography, Mr. Coelho shared with me the words you see above. It is in the spirit of his words that I now share mine.

    * * *

    I consider myself a product of the residential school era, but I do not consider myself a victim.

    What I am is a survivor, and I can honestly state that, prior to being taken away to residential school, life consisted of positive childhood events and memories. I felt secure, safe, nurtured, and protected by my family. Much of those feelings changed in the schools I attended.


    Today, it is clearly evident that Canada has failed in its objective of absorbing First Nations people into mainstream society. But what it has done is seed dysfunction and despair among the thousands of Aboriginal people who’ve passed through the residential school system.

    read the rest of part 1 of this article at:


    Sihkos’ Story, Part II: Sturgeon Landing Residential School part 2

    by Jane Glennon April 13, 2013

    In September 1951, on a nice, cool fall day, my sister and I walked through the doors of a residential school for the first time in our lives. Located in the midst of a small Saskatchewan settlement known as Sturgeon Landing (roughly 9 hours’ drive northeast of present-day Saskatoon), the school was built in the vicinity of Sturgeon Lake.

    The school was operated by an Oblate Missionary, with nuns of the St. Joseph order teaching and supervising about 200 girls and boys. Most of the students were Woodland Cree from the surrounding area. Meantime, the few native families who actually lived in the settlement had their children enrolled in a day school located on the other side of the lake.

    Immediately upon their arrival at Sturgeon Landing IRS, the children were told by the nuns to throw away the clothes they had been wearing and to put on a kind of dark uniform instead. We were also assigned a number at that time: mine was ‘32.’ This would serve as your “ID” throughout the year. When your number was called, it was usually for ‘misbehaviour’ (in their eyes, anyway); otherwise, it was for routine situations like being called to do chores, or seeing the doctor for your annual check-up.

    It would only occur to me later on that this sort of treatment — where you’re only known by your number — was not much different than what would happen in jail or in the army. We were like robots then: always told what to do, feel, and say. Our behaviour was always monitored. Everything had to be done in unison with the other girls. Individuality was non-existent in every aspect of our lives.

    read the rest of part 2 of Jane's story at:


  56. Indigenous Holocaust

    Produced Missy Whiteman IIFM Directed by Missy Whiteman IIFM

    Indigenous Hip hop artist Wahwahtay Benais music video featuring First Nations United

    This music video is dedicated to the children who lived and died in boarding schools.


    Verse 1

    Them devils came to the village posing as priests stealing children from
    they homes took and placed 'em in a school to replace and undo what they
    labeled as savage
    before the gates ya long hair sheared tossed in a pile like it was garbage
    stripped down from ya custom attire ya skin scrubbed till it bleed put his
    clothes in a fire and bury
    his items replace 'em with ours give 'em a bible teach 'em to read bleach
    'em indeed if he speaks one word of his tongue no songs sung from the
    homeland wich he learned as a
    young buck from a old sage in the village to a school made of brick were
    they plan was to kill 'em save the man was the modo sodomized dramatized
    gettin beat grueling rations when
    he eat many died cuz they starved no one notifyed buryed in the yard for not
    following the cross or officials for my ancestors ya heart beats thru me.


    They took his son from his home yeah they pulled 'em apart/ they took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the Iron Horse
    Another Native Fell victim to they holocaust. x2

    Verse 2

    She came from a family of five she was 9 at the time when they came to pay
    the people a visit with a man who translated the language they promised
    beautiful things if she attended without mentioning the evil they imposed
    his hands clammy and they cold as he shakes with a smile on his face now she
    on her way to carlisle with no knowledge of her fate he tell her calm down
    come now we at the gate she see the faces of her schoolmates saddened and
    broke they sat her down cut her hair and made her wear proper clothes to
    look civilized no
    more livin like ya tribe Lye soap if you try to speak a word of ya tongue ya
    mouth washed was the punishment amongst others gurls raped and made mothers
    babys born babys murdered women sterilized a act of genocide mutha***** ya
    heard me F*** the government cuz we didnt die we survived.


    They took his son from his home yeah they pulled em apart/ They took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the Iron Horse
    another native fell victim to they holocaust.x2

    Verse 3

    for more then 500 yrs we been fightin to live 80's baby born 85 12yrs after
    wounded knee but what about the massacre were they slaughtered 300 and i
    aint talkin bout the movie
    1890 on a cold december day when the calvary came and started shootin cuz of
    ceromonie scared we might raise the dead and take back our lands raise or
    arms and make a stand iam fightin back with these words if u dont know ur
    past then the future is bleek so seek knowledge from the elders who still
    livin holdin teachings for the people gotta carry on tradition for or
    children so we bridging the gap cuz pratt sought break us down by creation
    of school 1879 we were takin treated cruel like some animals dem priests
    never took sabatical from beatin and rapin young women and men dem f***


    they took his son from his home yeah they pulled em apart/ they took her
    daughter from her home they were forced to depart amongst the others on a
    train they called the iron horse another native fell victim to they

  57. Residential school survivors gather at Williams Lake site

    St. Joseph's residential school was torn down 26 years ago

    CBC News April 25, 2013

    Survivors of a residential school in Williams Lake, B.C. will gather together this week for a month-long reconciliation project.

    St. Joseph's residential school was torn down 26 years ago, but it left a painful legacy for survivors and their families.

    Over the next month, there will be several events where survivors will share their stories. There will also be a reunion for the former residential school students.

    Esketemc First Nation Chief Fred Robbins attended St. Joseph's, and is one of the organizers of the project.

    "I think that's a huge part of the healing, is just getting back together, and feeling that we were in this together," Robbins said.

    "That's what I think this reunion is all about — bringing back the friendships that were made and releasing a lot of the anger and frustration that happened at the residential school."

    The project will also include two monuments: One dedicated to the survivors, and the other to the children who died at St. Joseph's.

    The monuments will be located at the site of the torn-down school and at a park in Williams Lake.


    Related Stories

    CBC Digital Archives: Canada's Residential Schools

    Related Links

    The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre

    Indian Residential School Resources

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

  58. Abuse victims recount residential school heartbreak

    CTV Montreal April 25, 2013

    MONTREAL - More witnesses, many speaking with voices choked with emotion, told their wrenching stories at the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in Montreal Thursday.

    One of the witnesses explained that recounting her sufferings was a nearly-impossible task.

    “This is really difficult for me to say,” said Sheri Lynne Neapetung, one of six survivors of Indian residential schools asked to tell her story on the day.

    “It took a long time for me to remember that I was molested and I have no identity of my perpetrator because it happened at night.”

    The consequences have been devastating, she recounted.

    “I've had repeated nightmares of a dark figures attacking me and this has lasted for many, many years,” she said.
    Others also struggled to speak, including one male witness who haltingly described the sexual abuse he underwent, one of many forms of abuse he and others fell victim to.

    “Emotional, sexual, physical abuse, you name it, brainwashing, it was all there,” said residential school survivor David Decontie.

    He said he hopes to heal from the damage caused in his childhood.

    “I still have a long road to go, it's not going to be easy,” he said.

    Another First Nations victim of the school scheme said that the trauma pushed her to alcoholism.

    “I’ve cried many tears,” said Lizzy Kasudluak. “I've filled maybe 10 buckets of tears in my lifetime.”

    And while others said that the hearing might help the healing process, the commissioner noted that it was also important to record the chapter as an important part of Canadian history.

    “This country and those of us living in it will never be able to say that this did not happen in Canada,” said Commissioner Marie Wilson.

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was given a $60-million budget to hear from 150,000 aboriginals who were uprooted from their homes and culture and relocated to special boarding schools as children.


  59. Aboriginal childrens artwork repatriated to Australia

    Colgate University in NY donates works to Western Australia university

    CBC News May 10, 2013

    Artwork created by Aboriginal children in residential schools is being returned to Australia from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

    The 119 drawings and paintings had been part of the university art collection since 1966. They are to be returned to Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, after an agreement was reached between the two universities.

    The art was created by Noongar children between 1945 and 1951 at the Carrolup Native School and Settlement — children who were part of what Australia terms the "Stolen Generation". From 1910 to the early 1970s, as many as 100,000 mostly mixed-race Aboriginal children were taken from their families under government programs meant to assimilate them and housed in government camps.

    Art by children from Carrolup, including native imagery, kangaroos and Australian landscapes, was considered so remarkable it toured Europe in 1950.

    Herbert A. Mayer, a businessman and Colgate graduate, donated the collection to his alma mater in 1966. He had purchased the works from Florence Rutter, a benefactor to the Carrolup School.

    In 2004, a visiting scholar from Australia immediately recognized the work of children from Carrolup. Additional drawings were discovered, and the artwork attracted international news coverage in 2005 when it was exhibited in Colgate's Picker Art Gallery.

    On Wednesday, a painting by Reynold Hart called Hunting was presented to Curtin University at a ceremony ahead of the future transfer of the full collection.

    Curtin and Colgate Universities have built a relationship over the last eight years, with American students studying Aboriginal culture on exchange programs with the Australian university. In 2006 Colgate lent the artwork for the Perth International Arts Festival and the issue of repatriation was raised.

    “We had to develop a relationship with an institution that would preserve the work forever,” said Ellen Percy Kraly, a demographer and professor of geography at Colgate.

    "The work has so much meaning in country that it deserves to be within the hearts, souls, and eyes of the people," she added.

    Curtin has the highest enrollment of Noongar students among Australian universities and plans to exhibit the works locally.

    see sample of art at:


  60. Saskatoon police mourn homeless drunk they considered a friend


    Alvin Cote is shown in a photo posted to the Saskatoon RCMP Facebook page on Thursday April 25, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO [see link below]

    He was one of the most recognizable residents in Saskatoon and some people consider the Prairie city a little different now that he's gone.

    Alvin Cote wasn't a well-known politician, businessman or hockey player, but a ragged, homeless alcoholic whose tough talk would easily melt into a hearty chuckle and a big smile short on teeth.

    He spent the past couple of decades living in Saskatoon. He could be seen curled up on the floor of a bank foyer, sleeping on park benches or reading worn copies of National Geographic in the drunk tank.

    He died April 19, a few days shy of his 60th birthday.

    Saskatoon police officers are still talking about his death, even though they considered it an inevitable fate. It's believed Cote had been arrested more times for public drunkenness than anyone else in the city's history. Some officers put the tally at close to 1,000.

    Although his obituary does not list an official cause of death, police say Cote was in hospital with pneumonia when he died.


    Downtown beat officer Const. Derek Chesney was surprised and saddened when he heard the news. He saw the man almost every day over the past five years.

    "It's not often that you can arrest somebody on multiple occasions and end up being friends with them. But such was