The First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Over the past two years, CLAIHR has closely followed the progress of the First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with interest. In 2008 and 2009, CLAIHR was pleased to partner with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law to conduct research regarding not only Canada’s First Nations TRC, but TRC’s around the world. CLAIHR was also honoured to speak to the students at St. Thomas Acquinas Secondary School in Oakville last May at the request of a student in the human rights class.
The residential schools, which are the subject of the TRC, were notorious for abuse and neglect of First Nations children. The children were forcibly sent to the schools, often hours away from their families, and were punished if they were caught practicing their religion, speaking their native language, among other reasons. An astounding number of children at the schools contracted tuberculosis, resulting in many deaths.
The main purpose of the schools was to assimilate aboriginal children into the dominant Anglo-Saxon culture of the rest of Canada. As Stephen Harper eloquently stated in his apology, “these objectives were based on the assumption aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, ‘to kill the Indian in the child.’ Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.”
The First Nations Truth and Reconciliation Project officially began in June of 2008, a year prior to Stephen Harper’s apology. The purpose of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Canada is to rectify knowledge and experiences from the IRS. Ultimately, the First Nations are searching for a truth to continue the healing process for those who may have been former students of the IRS and for all aboriginals that have experienced injustice. The TRC also hopes to offer recommendations to the government of Canada.