Chilliwack/Abbotsford – Cultural Genocide – that’s the description (By Committee Chair Murray Sinclair) of the end result of the report. The stern document was 94 recommendations that were made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC) regarding treatment of First Nations kids at Aboriginal Residential Schools. Among the proposals include, not just apologizes, but concrete changes on how FN kids are treated in Foster care and a full apology from the Pope on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church.
Art Shofley is a Chilliwack based First Nations elder who has worked extensively with Restorative Justice. He is also a survivor of the residential school system which left many scars, both physical and mental.
If there is one person who could continue to hold a seething grudge against those who harmed him, he would be justified. But he is not. He told FVN Fraser Valley News, he hopes the TRC recommendations spark major change.
“I would see this as an opportunity for Canada and the Aboriginal People to utilize the situation of our youth. They are in need of job training and education. Canada is really short in having the manpower to fill that need. Here is a wonderful opportunity to invest in a practical way, in our youth. And of course to listen to the admonishments of the Commissioners. Spirituality is a great resource that we need to continue to utilize. I think that has been our strength, That IS our strength and that will help to lead us through this (and into the future). As an old man now, who has been through the residential School experience, and still impacted by it although I don’t consider myself just a survivor ( I consider myself more than that), I would just be cognisent of the fact that is NOT all about Aboriginals, it’s about all Canadians. All Citizens. Here is an opportunity to demonstrate what we mean by spirituality and lead the rest of the world in a way that promotes what every human being wants. That is peace, unity etc.”
But does this feel like closure?
“To come extent, it’s on going. I know the question will be for some “What is closure”. I think it’s an open ended situation. It’s a human reality and the human race is a work in progress. Emphasize the word – progress. I am the optimist. We are succeeding, but it has to but cooperatively, collectively — all of us.”
Art’s wife Laura Leah Allan is a Metis elder in Chilliwack. She told FVN – “Everyone was in tears at the first TRC session in Winnipeg…The start of this incredible program of beginning to heal together. Let’s never forget what has happened so the healing can be completed and we all can live together in peace. Now is the time to start”.
Monica Sheilds of Seabird Island band via Lillooet said “I am not a residential school survivor i am what is known as a 2nd generation survivor as one of my parents did go to residential school as did my grand parents and relatives/community members. The residential schools took away our way of parenting and as a 2nd generation survivor i sought out help to raise my children.
As for the residential schools , we have known for a long time what has happened in residential schools the government and Canadians would not listen , now the world is listening. As with sexual , physical , mental , emotional or spiritual abuse when secrets come out into the open there will be some denial , some blame , shame and anger this is the beginning of the healing that needs to be done. For some of us we have been healing for years now we can help each other , as our Elder Art says spirituality is key in healing. We need to do this for the future generations as is the norm with first nations people we always think of the ancestors , the present and future 7 generations. Healing is ongoing please ask US what we need to heal ourselves as we already know what we need there are a lot of us that have been on this path for a while. the Government tried to kill us but they could not kill our spirit ~all my relations~”
Picture of the TRC decision Courtesy Monica Sheilds son, Morris Prosser
OTTAWA – The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the report and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC):
“Today, we recognize the meaningful work carried out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in documenting the impacts of the Residential Schools system on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in Canada. By recording the experiences of thousands of survivors, the TRC has ensured that all Canadians can gain a deeper understanding of this dark chapter in our collective history, and of the devastating and lasting legacy it has left on Aboriginal Peoples’ communities, cultures, languages, health, education, and welfare.
“Though the Commission’s work is coming to a close, this moment represents a beginning, not an end. As the TRC’s report and recommendations note, it is time to act, without delay, to advance the process of reconciliation, and rebuild Canada’s relationship with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples based on rights, respect, cooperation, and the standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Meaningful reconciliation will only come when we live up to our past promises and ensure the equality of opportunity required to create a fair and prosperous shared future.
“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, I affirm our unwavering support for the TRC’s recommendations, and call on the Government of Canada to take immediate action to implement them.
“As leaders and legislators, we have a responsibility to act. The truth of what occurred has been established. Now we must all commit to the important work of reconciliation going forward.”