One of the events the TRC was a town hall discussion about residential schools, a chance for the public to speak about how they felt. The event was moderated by long time CBC news anchor Dennis Trudeau who took questions in both English and French and it wasn’t long before people were up on their feet sharing their stories. Trudeau was quick to ask follow up questions in hopes of finding solutions to the problems facing a lot of survivors. Solomon Wawatie a residential school survivor asked about how reconciliation took two people but the truth has not come out. “The truth is not being entirely told from my perspective, there are five elements that are considered genocide, one of them is outright killing, killing the spirit, residential schools, sterilization, and starvation. What happened in Canada is genocide and until the Canadian Government and clergy acknowledge that there will be no reconciliation!”
One of the statements came from Stuart Myiow Jr from Kahnawake talked about crimes committed against the Indigenous people, crimes like kidnapping, and forcible confinement. “We have to understand that people form within a government , people from a religion caused great pain and suffering, Stephen Harper apologized said that it was wrong!” He went on to talk about crimes committed by people within the highest levels of government and the highest levels of the Catholic church and because Harper said he was sorry that these people who committed these horrendous crimes would not be charged. He said that just because there has been forgiveness does not mean people who committed these crimes then there must be justice.
Trudeau asked the question if there was significant movement towards reconciliation? To which Myiow said no! Myiow Sr then entered into the conversation, spoke of his love of hunting and how the distruction of the forests affected his life. Myiow Sr went has far as to say the Harper should be shot. Trudeau quickly stepped saying that violence doesn’t beget violence and that there needs to be a better way to bring reconciliation to Canada. Trudeau then asked former Conservative MP David McDonald who seated nearby about his thoughts on what had been said by the first few people. MacDonald serves as special advisor to the United Church Committee on Indigenous Justice and Residential Schools. Mcdonald found himself surprisingly in agreement with a lot of what was said.
“The one thing that hasn’t mentioned here that I believe needs to be said if we think governments have done a pretty terrible job, I would say that we’ve all done a terrible job in regards to public attitudes.” Mcdonald would go on to add that when issues happened in First Nations communities like Attawapiskat, the Canadian public didn’t understand beyond the superficial and often blamed the victim themselves. He acknowledged the gulf between First Nations and Canadians and asked if there were bridges that could be built?
Lee Grayfeather a MicMac residential school survivor, had this to say. “When Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes to us and then the very next cuts out over 8 million in grants to women and children and to this day does nothing else.” Irene a survivor and elders coordinator, talked about how she worked to build her family back up after spending 6 years in the schools. “ We can stand here and blame everyone in our lives but where is the reconciliation, an elder told me, the more things happen to you, the stronger you become”. Irene Barbeau a residential school survivor of two schools has been working with survivors for over 30 years long before any agreement was signed. “We recognized that we needed to heal ourselves ans since nobody was going to do for us, we decided to take the bull by the horns and heal ourselves.” She talked about she could finally reconcile with her own life and how it could be accomplished for others. “What I had to do was forgive someone, but everyone that was there was now dead so I forgave the system”
The last person to comment was CBC’s Sheila Rogers. “I want to thank everyone for speaking from the heart and that I hear you. I feel very uncomfortable but when is growth not uncomfortable?” She also suggested that Aboriginal people should be Aboriginal teachers and for making for making her uncomfortable.