|The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada held its fourth national event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan June 21. After attending a prior hearing, students from the We'koqma'q Mi'kmaw School in Nova Scotia created “Our Legacy Our Hope,” a documentary bearing witness to the intergenerational effects of Residential Schools and the ongoing work of the commission to address these legacies.||
For more than 150 years the Canadian government systematically removed Aboriginal children from their homes and placed them in church-run Indian Residential Schools (IRS), with the stated intent to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society. These children were separated from their families, their land, and their culture, and many suffered physical, sexual, and psychological abuse in the schools.
Canada’s TRC is now investigating the history of these schools and their continued impact on Canadian society, uncovering the truth to initiate countrywide healing. The hearings, seven in all, open a space for survivors of the IRS system to share their stories.
The fourth national event included traditional ceremonies, survivor testimony, cultural performances, and a Youth Dialogue hosted by the TRC and ICTJ as part of an education day for local students on June 22. Though the TRC has invited students to attend events in the past, this will be the first time space was specifically designated to youth to encourage their active participation in the proceedings.
During this student-led forum on the legacy of the IRS system, youth has the opportunity to discuss the enduring effects of the residential schools on their lives today, whether Canadian schools adequately teach this chapter of history, and meaning and methods of achieving reconciliation.
They then had a chance to make recommendations to a Listener’s Panel of adults, whose members included Commissioner Marie Wilson of the TRC of Canada; Diane Boyko, board chair for the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools Board of Education; and Bob Pringle, children’s advocate for the Province of Saskatchewan.
While this dialogue is the first of its kind for the TRC, it follows from a series of activities designed to promote youth involvement in the work of the Commission. Previous youth engagement efforts resulted in the creation of two youth-produced documentary films related to the work of the TRC, “Our Legacy Our Hope” presented above and “Teaching Our Children.”
“Our Legacy Our Hope” was launched during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Youth traveled to New York City to present their documentary to a packed audience at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations. Plans to screen this film as an educational resource at schools throughout Nova Scotia are in development.