The opportunity for Canada to acknowledge the common experiences of physical, psychological and sexual abuse of First Nations children who were forced to assimilate at Indian Residential Schools has arrived — and so has the opportunity to learn from history.
Residential school survivors from the Ktunaxa Nation are optimistic the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s final report released on June 2nd will help families heal from their devastating experiences and gain access to improved educational programs.
“The Ktunaxa Nation is supportive of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and all the recommendations in its report,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation council chair, in a recent press release. “The impacts of the residential schools are still felt in every aboriginal community in Canada every day. This dark legacy cannot be relegated to the pages of history books or ignored. All Canadians must make the effort to hear the stories of those who survived the residential schools.”
The 382-page summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report revealed the shocking scale of abuse that First Nations children were historically faced with, which has now ultimately resulted in 94 recommendations to resolve conflicts from the past.
“Only through understanding where this pain and anguish comes from can the reconciliation and healing journey begin,” continued Ms. Teneese, while noting the recommendations outlined in the report range from mandatory education in public schools to enacting federal legislation to revitalize and preserve the cultures.
“Education is a powerful way in which we will walk toward truth and reconciliation,” said David Walls, President and CEO of College of the Rockies, in an statement issued after the release of the TRC’s report. “We acknowledge the painful legacy of residential schools, and agree that all Canadians must hear the stories of those who survived these schools. College of the Rockies is committed to working with all partners in government, schools, corporations and community to build understanding regarding the legacy of residential schools.
“College of the Rockies is very proud of our 40 year history of working with Ktunaxa, Shuswap, and Metis people, and they remain valued colleagues, relatives and friends,” Mr. Wells continued. “We will continue to commit our hearts and minds to the reconciliation process.”
But the road to recovery won’t be an easy one.
“The Ktunaxa Nation has charted its own healing path and this is reflected in the work we do with our partners including schools, colleges, corporations and governments,” said Ms. Teneese. “The recommendations made today by the commission can support us on this path, but we need engagement from leadership at all levels of government across Canada and more importantly Canadians to ensure that these recommendation do not fall by the wayside.
“Reconciliation is not to forgive and forget, but to remember, so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.”