TRC Report Leads to 22 Days of Action

They may have tried to kill the Indian in the child, but instead they have awakened a gentle spirit of reconciliation.  On June 2, 2015 in Ottawa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) delivered its final report to the government and Canada. The event included a few days of events ahead of the final report, including  a walk through the streets of Ottawa.

TRC-2015- CR-Art-Babych
Elder Evelyn Commanda-Dewache hugs Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Photo: Art Babych
     Winnipeg was the host city in 2010 for the first of five national gatherings. The Winnipeg event was planned by the TRC, municipal  and Indigenous leaders and churches. The first event was held at the Forks and included sharing circles, teachings, cultural ceremonies and collection of stories of the survivors of Residential Schools.
     Some of the same organizers of the first Winnipeg event came back again weeks ahead to plan a Winnipeg response to the TRC final report. The event was held at the University of Winnipeg June 2 and started on the grounds of the university with opening prayers and remarks.
     Elder Stan Mackay emceed the day’s events that included the live feed from Ottawa of the TRC final report. Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC and commissioners Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild each spoke of their findings.
Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Photo: Art Babych

“Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships.

There are no shortcuts.” said  Sinclair. He also used the term “cultural genocide” to describe what happened to Indigenous children in the Residential schools.
   First Nation, Inuit, and Metis children were required to attend the national schools that were administered by  churches. The Roman Catholic Church ran 60 percent of the schools, the Anglican Church of Canada ran 30 percent, and the United Church of Canada and Presbyterian Church in Canada ran 10 percent. The purpose of the schools was to “kill the Indian in the child,” or assimilate them into a European way of life. Once at the schools, many of the children were abused. An estimated 7000 former students shared their stories with the TRC over its five year mandate.
      The Canadian government apologized in 2008 for its role in creating the schools and the damage that resulted. Victims of the schools participated in the class action lawsuit that resulted in the TRC.
      Among the comments of the commissioners was the call to action for the government to ensure such a negative experience is never repeated and that Canadians take ownership of their past through the education of its citizens in curriculum across the country.

       Each of the churches have made apologies for the role they played in administering the schools. The Anglican

Leaders of the four Churches who ran the Residential Schools. Photo: Art Babych
Leaders of the four Churches who ran the Residential Schools. Photo: Art Babych

Church of Canada apologized through its Primate Michael Peers at a Sacred Circle at Minaki Lodge in Kenora in 1993. Since that time, Indigenous Anglicans have achieved self determination in their national governance and have raised up a national Indigenous Bishop, Mark MacDonald. Other Indigenous bishops have been elected and a new Indigenous diocese has been formed under Bishop Lydia Mamakwa in northern Ontario.

       Locally, a closing ceremony at the University of Winnipeg followed the live feed from Ottawa June 2.  About 400 Indigenous and non Indigenous people marched together  from the University of Winnipeg to Thunderbird House, where  a final closing ceremony featured singers, drummers, a pipe ceremony, and speeches from Indigenous leaders.
        Anglican churches have now pledged to live into reconciliation with its #22days campaign, which includes bell ringing to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women and children, 22 days of story telling from former students and staff of residential schools, and prayer walks. The #22days with come to a close on June 21 with special services across the country marking the Aboriginal Day of Prayer.
Murray Still

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