The Truth and Reconciliation Commission wants to establish a museum for Canada’s residential schools.
In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Canadian aboriginal communities for more than two decades of forced assimilation of First Nation’s culture through the 130 schools.
The fallout of that federal-sanctioned policy has affected generations of people.
A year after the apology, Harper signed the settlement agreement which established the five-year mandated Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Its job is to educate Canadians about what happened to the estimated 200, 000 aboriginal Canadians forced to attend the schools.
The commission has been touring communities and holding events to gather and record peoples’ own stories, memories, artifacts and art.
Last week, the commission announced it wants to house all this material in a research centre.
In March, experts and survivors will gather in Vancouver to decide what the centre should look like and how it should work.
“It will be a permanent resource to educate all Canadians on what happened,” said commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild on Wednesday, before inviting researchers, students, leaders and survivors to attend.
The Vancouver forum is a chance to hear from experts on the best way to do this, he said.
And while little has been decided about how to go about creating this centre, a glance at the agenda and speaker list gives clues about the intended direction.
The speakers are coming from a wide variety of countries – South Africa, Rwanda, east Timor, Serbia and numerous countries in Latin America – that share one thing, a genocide or ethnocide in their history.
The proposed Canadian residential school centre will show the personal history and experiences of residential school students and how the system was, in fact, conducting an ethnocide.
“I can’t see much basis for it helping in anyway,” said Chuck Hume, a residential school survivor from the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations.
He now works as a resolution health support worker with the Council of Yukon First Nations, helping other survivors accept their past so they can deal with their future.
“You got to remember a lot of that material that’s given out is quite confidential and I think it should be kept in kind of a private way,” he said.
Personal accounts of kidnap, psychological, physical and sexual abuse tend to take over most of the commission’s visits and gatherings.
If survivors’ children wish to read about this in their family members’ own words, for example, that should be made possible, said Hume.
The forum is set to take place at the Sheraton Wall Centre from March 1 through to the 3.
Information and registration is available on the commission’s website at www.trc.ca.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org