Federal government officials look forward on Truth and Reconciliation

By Marc Lalonde

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Five federal ministers banded together to make sure Indigenous people living in Canada know that the government is committed to fixing the terrible mistakes of its past and wants to make sure such horrors are never visited upon anyone again in this country, they said in a statement last week.

The statement came on behalf of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Justice Minister David Lametti and Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal.

They said the Residential Schools nightmare was part of the country’s `damaging,’ and `racist,’ past, and that steps are being taken to ensure no child will ever be again ripped from their home and parents and shipped off to school far from home, possibly never to return.

`Residential Schools are a shameful part of damaging racist and colonial policies that removed First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children from their communities, families, languages and cultures.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established to find the truth of what happened at Residential Schools in Canada,’

the statement said. `Their Final Report included 94 Calls to Action that are an appeal to mobilize all levels of government, organizations and individuals to make concrete changes in society.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was created in response to the TRC’s Call to Action number 80,’ the statement said.

In the statement, the ministers confronted the discovery of unmarked graves at former Residential School sites last spring and throughout the summer _ the grisly recognition that thousands of families and generations of Indigenous people were forever and irreparably harmed by the policies of taking the children away and the trauma of the families left wondering if their child might ever come home.

`The location of unmarked graves at former Residential Schools across the country this past year shocked not just every Canadian, but the world,’ the statement said. `Once you know the truth, you cannot unknow it. All Canadians are better able to feel and understand what it must have been like to have their children taken against their will, some never to return, and all to witness that the lives of those who returned had been forever changed _ and harmed. We must never forget those innocent children who never returned home, their families and communities who were waiting for them and those who continue to suffer from intergenerational trauma.’

National commemoration of September 30 as Truth and Reconciliation Day follows in the footsteps of recognition of September 30 as Orange Shirt Day by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people as well in honour of Phyllis Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who was stripped of the orange shirt she had been given by her grandmother on her first day of Residential School.

`National recognition of this day of solemn commemoration marks another step toward recognizing the wrongs committed by the residential school policy, acknowledging the ongoing impacts and reflecting on actions to be taken each day on the path of reconciliation. It is an opportunity for all Canadians to further our understanding of and deepen our respect for Indigenous ways of life. It is also an opportunity for us all to stand with Indigenous Peoples; reaffirm our support for those who are affected, recognize the intergenerational trauma of residential schools that continues to have a profound effect on Survivors, their families and communities; and recognize our shared responsibility for healing.’

 Marc Lalonde  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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