EDMONTON – The Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s seventh and final National Event took place in Edmonton, on March 27-30. As the committee noted, “There were more Indian Residential Schools in Alberta than in any other province. For 116 years, thousands of Aboriginal children in Alberta were sent to Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and run by the churches. They were taken from their families and communities in order to be stripped of language, cultural identity and traditions. Canada’s attempt to wipe out Aboriginal cultures failed. But it left an urgent need for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.”
Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and one the people involved in the First Nations Child Welfare tribunal was at the event. “Listening to the survivor’s changes who you are. The stories are full of pain and triumph and what is so profound is that no matter how horrific the harm the survivors experienced they wrap it in love and forgiveness. I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to their example.”
Health Canada decided this year to terminate the Resolution Health Support Program, and to essentially leave survivors who continue to experience ongoing trauma to find treatment on their own.
Artist Lee Deranger was there in support of her husband Patrick Deranger, a residential school survivor, who is from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and attended Holy Angels Residential School (the school was known as “Hells Angels” to those who attended) in Fort Chipewyan from 1962-68. Lee is highly critical of the Canadian government’s approach to the issue. “Apology, my ass! They’re cutting the funding for survivors. Classy, huh?”
Lee added that “I also support Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak’s challenge to 1000 men this summer to fast on Victoria Island in Ottawa in honor of their obligations to women!”
Anna Faulds was there as well. “I went to the TRC to see what was being offered to the Indigenous Peoples. It was very overwhelming the amount of grief and pain that was in that building. I don’t know how people managed to go all four days. I went to support my family. I watched some of it online, and one of the thoughts that stuck out with me was how offensive the crosses on the table at the front were. I don’t trust the government or churches, so I don’t feel that it was as sincere as it should have been. The commercialism of the people selling their wares there seemed disrespectful to me. It was out of place. I think the government and churches will say, “Well, there you go. We gave you the opportunity to tell your story now that is the end of it.” It’s the way they have worked in the past and it is still their pattern of operations. I prayed for true balancing of the sacred circle, and for full healing of those wounds that were reopened; that all the pain be removed before closing the wound up again. It was a lot of energy that exhausts the body, mind and soul, so we’re all going to need some time for the energy to settle again. Actions from this moment forward will tell their intentions.”
It was announced that Alberta will include the history of residential schools to its school curriculum but the pending funding cut in therapeutic support to those who suffered trauma is contradictory to the spirit of reconciliation.