Survivors are being encouraged to share their stories and opinions at meetings being held by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation regarding the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA).
Meetings involving seven communities across the country began in October and will continue through until December, with the goal of gathering information regarding the IRSSA to inform the development of future settlement agreements and inform ongoing work on reconciliation in Canada. Prince Albert was host to the meeting Nov. 6.
The Information collected during the meetings will be compiled into a report scheduled to be released in March 2019 according to Kaila Johnston, acting manager for education and outreach with the NCTR.
“The hope with doing our seven community engagements … is to get a small sample of experiences from survivors,” Johnston said.
“We’re really just trying to reach as many people as possible across the country, because experiences from the far North are going to vary from folks from the Atlantic coast and we really want to capture those experiences.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14 in Edmonton, followed by Nov. 15 in Yellowknife, Nov. 26 in Sioux Lookout, Ont. Dec. 3 in Montreal, and Dec. 6 in Eskasoni, N.S.
The project is not designed to challenge the obligations of the IRSSA, such as to re-open, assess, or resolve individual claims, rather it is designed to listen to experiences of those involved to impact future settlements.
Survivors such as Ted Quewezance, who was in attendance of the Prince Albert meeting, are encouraged to participate as their testimonials can make a large impact on future settlement agreements.
“The purpose of the centre (NCTR) is for archiving all of our records, and our stories and the whole reason we are doing these meetings is so that the legacy of residential schools is never forgotten,” Quewezance said.
“It wasn’t good, it wasn’t nice and there are a lot of people, families, and communities that have been affected. It took a toll on me and my family and many other thousands of survivors … this whole thing is about truth telling.”
Quewezance added he believed his experience with the residential school system affected his life and his family negatively until he was able to learn to forgive both his abusers and himself, also adding that he has learned to forgive what was done to him, but that it will never be forgotten.
“I used to be a very angry man … but as time went on I learned the word forgiveness. It’s different today, now I’m very positive and open minded, but one thing you’ll never be able to do is to forget what happened,” Quewezance said.
“In order for us to move forward for us with drug issues, with poverty, and everything that’s going on in our communities we have to reconcile with each other … it’s not about the government or money, it’s about our feelings toward each other and learning to all get along.”
Those who are interested in participating in a meeting are encouraged to check the NCTR website for more information.
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