TRC responds to Yukon’s former students

Yukon Indian Residential School survivors will probably get an apology, but it is doubtful they will see any money.

Yukon Indian Residential School survivors will probably get an apology, but it is doubtful they will see any money.

The request for an apology and compensation was passed as a resolution at the Council of Yukon First Nations’ general assembly last week.

It came about a week after former Yukon residential school students were lodged in shabby accommodations during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national northern event in Inuvik.

“We’ve become victims again,” said Kwanlin Dun citizen and former politician Judy Gingell. “And the sad part about it is those commissioners are our people. It’s so wrong.”

Most Yukon delegates were dropped off at the Aurora College student residence known as the “blueberry patch,” because of its blue paint.

The rooms were unsanitary and filled with mould, delegates told the assembly last week.

They referred to the residence as a condemned building and recounted elders having to climb stairs, share beds and “steal” food and coffee from the main event buildings to take back to their rooms like thieves.

It was as bad as going back to residential school, some delegates said.

“As executive director of the TRC, it’s upsetting to me that people had a bad experience when they were at the national event,” said Kimberly Murray. “I immediately did everything I could to accommodate them and respond to their requests and make them feel more comfortable. We did everything we could possibly do, given the limited accommodations that were available in the town.”

The event was held in Inuvik because of its central location for northern residential schools.

According to the national commission’s concept paper for the event, the Inuit, Inuvialuit and Gwitch’in specifically requested Inuvik as the location.

Yukon survivors suggested Whitehorse.

“They need to take into consideration, when they’re going to have these national events, do they have the proper accommodation?” said Gingell. “Can they house this kind of national event? If they had it in Whitehorse, I don’t think we would have gone through that again. But that’s not the case.”

More than 1,000 people gathered in the northern town that has a population of just a little over 3,000. There are only three hotels.

But the commission partnered with the host First Nations to find appropriate accommodations that ranged from camps, to billets to hotels, said Murray.

And a logistics committee made up of representatives of the host First Nations and the commission inspected the accommodations before the event began, she said.

The “blueberry patch” did not have amenities or linens, Murray admits, but towels, bedding and toilet paper were purchased and delivered as soon as they were made aware, she added.

“I met with them and I explained to them that the TRC is not responsible for accommodations and travel for survivors to the national event, but that I will take responsibility for trying to fix the situation,” she said.

The meeting took place on the second day of the four-day event.

A special sharing circle with the commission was offered for the Yukoners, but after the nearly three-hour meeting that offer was rejected, said Murray.

By this time, some Yukon delegates had already rented vehicles to head back to the Yukon.

Still, the commission scrounged up seven hotel rooms for the Yukoners. Only five were eventually taken, two remained empty.

While the Council of Yukon First Nations’ resolution hasn’t been formally delivered to the commission, news it was even drafted surprised Murray.

“I saw them throughout the event and chatted with them,” she said. “I thought that the issues had been resolved.”

The resolution “condemns, in the strongest terms, the unacceptable treatment by the TRC,” calls for a formal apology from the commissioners and requests funding from the commission so that former residential school students in the Yukon can go to the next national event to share their stories there, “in a safe and comfortable environment.”

Once the commissioners see it, there will be an appropriate response to it, said Murray.

“But we’re not a funding organization,” she said. “We don’t want to be in the business of picking which survivors come to which national events. And we don’t want to be in the business of booking planes and booking hotels. The TRC doesn’t pay to bring survivors to the national events.”

Yukon delegates pointed to the $60 million dollars the national commission was given to complete their mandate in five years.

“Sixty million dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is,” said Murray. “But it’s not over five years with all the things we have to do in our mandate. And the northern event was the most expensive event we’re going to have. Also we’re not going to have the same challenges anywhere else in Canada.”

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada put up $400,000 and the churches raised another $100,000 for survivor travel and accommodations.

In the Yukon, the Council of Yukon First Nations was given money to give to the survivors they chose, said Murray.

The council had enough to get three citizens, from each Yukon First Nation, to Inuvik, it said.

And the council was asked before they went if the “blueberry patch” was OK,” said Murray. “And CYFN said, ‘Yes.’”

There is one final option, said Murray.

After the seven national events are finished, the commission is offering an application-based community event program where money will be made available for communities to put on their own event, however they see fit.

“There’s criteria, but I am sure they can meet it,” said Murray. “So that’s available to them.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read