OTTAWA— After criss-crossing the country from coast to coast over the past six years of its existence and hearing from over 7,000 witnesses who experienced Canada’s notorious residential school system first hand, the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) delivered its final report in Ottawa this week.
The end of the TRC may be bringing the culmination of six years of reflection on what has been labelled a national attempt at cultural genocide by Canadian governments, aided and abetted by many of the nation’s mainstream churches, but many Native and non-Native political and community leaders are calling the end of the TRC the beginning of the process of reconciliation, not the end. In the words of one West Coast chief, “reconciliation implies that we were once friends” and that the process going forward would be more appropriately labelled “relationship building.”
“The TRC is a beginning,” agreed Wikwemikong Chief Duke Peltier, “but there is a long way to go to build a solid relationship between our peoples and Canada.”
Some of the truth part of the TRC included horrific tales of homemade electric chairs, malnutrition experiments and the deaths of at least 6,000 children taken from their families in an effort to make good citizens out of them to serve the British Empire—mostly as lower class domestics and labourers.
“Undoubtedly, the most shocking piece of information that we uncovered was the number of children who died in the schools,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC. “The number of children who died was a significant number, and we think that we have not uncovered anywhere near what the total would be because the record keeping around that question was very poor.” The true number of those who died while in the custody of church and state will likely never be known.
The report, when released in its entirety, will be a massive tome. The executive summary expected to be released by Justice Sinclair yesterday (Tuesday, June 2) runs to some 300 pages.
A report on the events taking place in Ottawa is anticipated for next week’s paper.