(Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, ITK President Terry Audla, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy at the opening ceremony for TRC event in Ottawa. Photo: APTN/Jorge Barrera)
APTN National News
OTTAWA—Reconciliation between Canada and its Indigenous peoples will take “generations,” said Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), during remarks Monday marking the final phase of the commission’s mandate.
Drum and song filled the packed downtown Ottawa hotel ballroom as Pikwakanagan Chief Kirby Whiteduck, whose claimed territory includes Ottawa, led the grand entry to the front of the room.
On the stage sat the Commission’s bentwood box which has received about 1,300 items representing pledges for reconciliation over the past six years.
Sinclair called on all residents in Canada to work toward reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is achieved only through acting different,” said Sinclair. “Each of you in this room, and each of you in this country have a role to play.”
Sinclair said personal, political and cultural action was necessary to continue the path of reconciliation so its true rewards would be reaped by the country’s children.
“I challenge all of you who are here. While we may not share a past, we certainly share a future. We are bound to each other,” said Sinclair.
TRC Marie Wilson then took the stage to name the TRC’s latest honorary witnesses who are tasked with “witnessing forward.” The TRC has named about 80 honorary witnesses so far. They include individuals and institutions.
Wilson named Author Joseph Boyden, Sharon Johnston, the wife of the Governor General, academic Jonathan Sas, educator Sylvia Smith, academic Cynthia Esquimaux, and Canadians for a New Partnership, which was represented by Stephen Kakfwi, former premier of the Northwest Territories, and former Supreme Court of Canada justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who could not attend.
Clockwise from top left: TRC Commissioner Murray Wilson, Commissioners Wilson, Littlechild greet author Josephy Boyden, TRC Honourary Witnesses, Former NWT premier Stephen Kakfwi. Photos APTN/Jorge Barrera
Before the new witnesses were named, former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, who was previously named an honorary witness, spoke about what it mean to be given the honour.
“I grew up in this country and was educated in this country and I learned nothing about the residential schools, the history before then, the impact on generations of the first peoples of my country,” she said. “That has been a very upsetting thing for me to learn that I am part of a country that didn’t tell the truth.”
Following the format of its previous national events, the TRC planned to hold sharing circles for residential school survivors throughout the day. Panel discussions on the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples and the subject of reconciliation was also planned for the day, which was to be followed by performance by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of, Going Home Star, and a trilingual play called, The Voice of Silence.
The TRC will be releasing its much anticipated final report on Indian residential schools Tuesday.
About 150,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit children were, often, forcibly taken from their homes and put into residential schools run by Ottawa and the Churches. The residential school system lasted for over a century. The last residential school closed in 1996.
Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin recently said residential schools were part of the cultural genocide Canada committed against the Indigenous population.