OTTAWA—Weighing in at six volumes, 4,000 pages and 25-pounds, the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was presented at a ceremony conducted in Ottawa on December 15.
“I stand before you here, hopeful that we are at a threshold of a new era in this country,” said TRC Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, speaking before an emotionally-charged room filled with many residential school survivors and their families as he prepared to unveil the commission’s final report in Ottawa.
The final report follows on the earlier release of the executive summary of the report in June 2015 along with its 94 recommendations for reconciliation. At the ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his government’s commitment to implement the reports recommendations and the 2008 apology issued by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of Canada.
“The Indian residential school system, one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history, has had a profoundly lasting and damaging impact on indigenous culture, heritage, and language. As a father and a former teacher, I am overwhelmingly moved by these events,” said Prime Minister Trudeau in a formal statement on the release of the final report. “Seven years ago the Government of Canada apologized for this abhorrent system. The apology is no less true, and no less timely, today. The Government of Canada ‘sincerely apologizes and asks forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly’. Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I have the honour of accepting the Commission’s final report. It is my deepest hope that this report and its findings will help heal some of the pain caused by the Indian residential school system and begin to restore the trust lost so long ago.”
“Today marks the conclusion of an historic journey for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and I commend all former students who showed courage in sharing their stories,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. “We are committing ourselves to the hard work of reconciliation in honour of the former students and for our future generations.”
“Today’s report presents the largest challenge in Canada’s history. All levels of government and all sectors of society must meet that challenge,” said Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day. “Everyone must work together in the spirit of reconciliation and the ultimate goal of a renewed relationship of equity. As TRC Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair stated, ‘We owe it to our children to build a Canada with a shared future. A future of healing and of trust’.”
“The number is staggering,” said Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, commenting on the number of children that are still taken into care and calling for the government to put their money where their mouths are going forward. “There are far too many children being ripped away from their families. It’s a cycle that continues with the inter-generational legacy of residential schools. Many of these children end up on the streets or in jail. Is there going to be government and corporate dollars thrown at implementing the recommendations from the TRC report?”
“I would like to thank the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair and the entire Truth and Reconciliation Commission for assembling what will be Canada’s most comprehensive report on the atrocities committed at residential schools. I would especially like to thank the survivors who shared their experiences and who have shone a light into one of the darkest chapters of our country’s history,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “The Commission has offered us an opportunity to renew our relationship with aboriginal partners, and challenged us to renew our commitment to live together on this land based on principles of trust, mutual respect and shared benefits. Working with our First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners, it is a challenge the province of Ontario is grateful to accept. Our government will carefully review the report summary and its recommendations, and we look forward to reviewing the final report in its entirety. Today, I want to reaffirm the Province of Ontario’s commitment to reconciliation, to supporting survivors and to continuing to build trust with aboriginal partners.”
“I acknowledge and thank TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson for their work and dedication to truth-seeking and truth-telling,” continued AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “They have shared a path to reconciliation and I invite all Canadians to join us on this journey.”
The TRC came about in response to the largest class action suit ever initiated in Canada and was part of the settlement of that suit. In addition to the national inquiry that led to the formulation of the TRC report, there were cash settlement payments made to each survivor of the residential school system and a number of programs were instituted to assist in ameliorating the impact of the residential schools. Much of that program funding has now run its course, but the Trudeau government has committed to meeting the 94 recommendations contained in the report.
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is being published in seven languages: English, French, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwa, Inuktitut, Cree and Dené.