Residential school probe urges education for healing
Published Friday, February 24, 2012 10:11PM EST
The head of a commission exploring the effects of the residential school system says the legacy of abuse suffered by aboriginal children should be part of today's public education system.
Justice Murray Sinclair said that healing among First Nations and the rest of Canada can only occur when the country understands the full causes and implications of the problems plaguing many communities.
The interim report, authored by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, was released Friday.
"It has been through the use of an education system by the Canadian government that we have established and created the situation that exists within aboriginal communities and within aboriginal families in this country," Sinclair said at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University following the report's release.
"Also, it is through the educational system that non-aboriginal Canadians have been taught what they've come to learn about aboriginal people, or not learned about aboriginal people in this country.
The report also calls for a mental health facility to be set up in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories to treat residential school survivors, families and communities
"We believe it is through the educational system that that information can be corrected, that that lack of information can be filled," said Sinclair.
Other recommendations include having the federal government restore funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Plus, the government, churches and others should hand over all materials related to the school system and address the concerns of those victims left out of the compensation programs, according to the report.
Mental health centres should also be set up for counselling and treatment, the report stated.
The report contains 20 recommendations.
About 150,000 aboriginal children were forced to attend the schools, the first of which opened in the 1870s and the last of which closed in 1996.
Already, the commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors, visited about 500 communities and has heard from about 100 former school employees.
Earlier this month, commission chairman Sinclair called the schools acts of genocide.
In January, one survivor testified he kept his hair short so abusers found it harder to grab him and bang his head against a wall.
The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate, with a full report due when its mandate expires in 2014.
In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a historic apology for the residential school tragedy.
Friday's interim report suggested that framed copies of Harper's speech be sent to survivors of the schools.
With files from The Canadian Press