Did you Know? Over the course of 150 years and several generations, 150,000 Inuit, Métis and First Nations children were placed in Indian residential schools in an attempt to assimilate Aboriginal peoples. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established as a result of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in residential schools, and guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada will host its fourth National Event in Saskatoon at Prairieland Park, June 21-24, 2012. This is an opportunity for all Canadians, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to learn more about and bear witness to the legacy of the residential school system.
This National Event will help to unveil the unique experiences of residential school survivors from Saskatchewan. Survivors, both direct and intergenerational, former school staff and others affected by the schools are invited to come forward and provide private and/or public statements about the impact of residential schools on their lives, that of their families and of their communities.
All members of the public are invited to observe the proceedings as witnesses. The role of a witness is to observe or account for the significance of the event. Bearing witness to the thought provoking statements of residential school survivors and others helps to validate the survivor experience and brings us on a path towards reconciliation.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada, along with other churches and the Canadian government was involved in the residential school system for Aboriginal children, and therefore it is critical for us to be involved in the process of truth-telling, healing, and reconciliation which is the aim of the TRC.
The Presbyterian Church operated several schools before 1925 and the formation of the United Church of Canada. In 1908, over 500 Aboriginal children were attending Presbyterian schools. After the formation of the United Church, the Presbyterian Church continued to operate two schools: Birtle school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Cecilia Jeffrey school near Kenora, Ontario. These schools, which had opened in 1883 and 1902 respectively, continued to operate until the 1970s.
Here are some ways that you can be involved in the TRC:
- Go to the trc.ca website and learn more. Read the TRC’s interim report which is available on the website.
- Plan to attend the National Event in June which will be held at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon. The event will include many opportunities to learn about the schools, to listen to the stories of those who attended the schools or who have been affected by their legacy, and to experience the gifts of Aboriginal cultures to our communities.