Time for action: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission releases recommendations

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Students at a residential school in Fort Resolution in Canada's Northwest Territories. (Library and Archives Canada/From a story by Radio-Canada.ca)
Students at a residential school in Fort Resolution in Canada’s Northwest Territories. (Library and Archives Canada/From a story by Radio-Canada.ca)
For the estimated 80,000 survivors of Canada’s residential school system, Tuesday marked another step towards closure with the release of dozens of recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

For the last six years, the commission travelled to 300 communities recording survivor testimony from every region of Canada including the Arctic.

A summary of the final report and recommendations was released today in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa.

“The residential school experience is clearly one of the darkest, most troubling chapters in our collective history,” said Justice Murry Sinclair, chair of the TRC, before delivering the recommendations this morning.  “In the period from Confederation until the decision to close residential schools was taken, Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide.”

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair speaks during the Grand entry ceremony during the second day of closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa, Monday June 1, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair speaks during the Grand entry ceremony during the second day of closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa, Monday June 1, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Recommendations

Among the 94 recommendations outlined by Justice Sinclair on Tuesday:

The TRC’s final, six-volume report, will be published at the end of 2015.

Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission outlines some of the TRC’s key  recommendations on Tuesday, June 2, 2015:

Dark history

The history of residential schools in Canada dates back to the 1800s.

Inuit and First Nations children were sent to the federally funded, primarily church-run schools, far from their communities and their cultures, and often against the wishes of their families.

The goal was to assimilate the children into ‘European’ culture.

While some people say the residential school experience was a positive one for them, many children suffered years of physical and sexual abuse in the institutions and were punished for things like speaking their aboriginal languages.

The last residential schools were closed in Canada in the 1990s.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, over 130 of these institutions were located across Canada and more than 150,000 Inuit, Métis and First Nations children passed through the residential school system.

Apology and reconciliation

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established after the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The goal of the commission was to record survivor testimony and detail the legacy the residential school system still has on Inuit and First Nations communities in Canada.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on behalf of the government of Canada to Inuit, First Nations and Métis communities for the residential school policy.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Violence and public health in the North – What about the men?, Blog by Heather Exner-Pirot

Denmark: Nordics report high abuse levels against women, Radio Sweden

Finland: Finland ‘downplays’ suicide figures says expert, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland has first fatal police shooting, The Associated Press

Russia: Why high suicide rates in Arctic Russia?, Deutsche Welle’s Ice-Blogger

Sweden:  Reports of violent crime increasing in Sweden’s North, Radio Sweden

United States: Survey finds violence against women widespread in Western Alaska region, Alaska Public Radio Network

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project.

Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the violent death of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on violence and trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

Twitter: @Arctic_EQ

Email: eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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