Residential School survivors panel:  Michael Cheena, Margaret Tourville, Elder Andrew Wesley and Murray Crow.

Residential School survivors panel: Michael Cheena, Margaret Tourville, Elder Andrew Wesley and Murray Crow.

By Christine Smith (McFarlane)

TORONTO – Respecting other peoples’ truths are at the heart of attempts to create reconciliation between First Peoples and others who live in Canada.

Wilton Littlechild, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told a symposium about the commission’s role in creating more public education about the impacts of Canada’s network of Indian Residential Schools.

“We have heard many stories from survivors of the residential school system, have had an opportunity to update the Senate and also the United Nations at a forum in New York, and it is our hope that all the statements and research documented will guide and inspire healing and reconciliation in Aboriginal communities and families and between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people,” Littlechild said. “That reconciliation doesn’t stand a chance if it is not rooted in a profound appreciation of others’ truths.”

The lawyer and former Member of Parliament from Ermineskin Cree First Nation in Alberta was the keynote speaker for a symposium called “Linking Arms Together”, presented at York University June 28. The conference theme was based on a Mohawk Wampum teaching about cooperation and sovereignty, and the event observed the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, by which the Crown in Canada recognized the sovereignty of First Nations.

“We are to inform all Canadians about the history and ongoing legacy of the residential schools,” Littlechild told an audience that included Residential School survivors, United Nations officials and representatives of a number of human rights organizations. The commission’s role is “to give an opportunity to all former students, staff and all those affected by the schools, to participate in the telling of that history through national and community events and statement gathering.”

To date the commission has collected 2.6 million documents and heard thousands of stories at seven national events, as well as numerous local and regional gatherings. The information it collects will be housed in a national research centre that will be built upon the completion of the commission’s five-year mandate.

The agenda included a panel discussion by four residential school survivors, and seven other speakers: Dr. Marlene Brant-Castellano,  Dr. John Milloy,  Dr. Marie Wilson, Grand Chief Ed John, Romeo Saganash, Craig Benjamin, and Jennifer Preston.