'We need a vision for reconciliation': TRC set to release its final report
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is set to release its final report on the legacy of the residential school system on Canada's indigenous population on Tuesday.
A summary of the report unveiled in June found that the school system amounted to "cultural genocide,” and functioned not to educate aboriginal children but to "primarily break their link to their culture and identity."
It also described the institutions as places where neglect and abuse were common, and where aboriginal languages were suppressed.
An estimated 150,000 aboriginal children passed through the residential school system over 150 years.
The commission interviewed more than 6,700 former students from across the country.
Justice Murray Sinclair, who has fronted the TRC's sweeping investigation for the past six years, will present the final report to the parties involved in the class-action settlement that led to the commission's initial creation on Tuesday.
"We need a vision for reconciliation, we all need to grab on to it and we need to work with it," Sinclair told CTV News.
Sinclair said that the commission used the "establishment of a mutually respectful relationship," as the standard for reconciliation in the report, but hopes to also help aboriginals develop an understanding of the "validity of their cultures and their languages."
"We still hold to that as an ultimate objective to this, but at the same time we need people to understand that there is a need for indigenous people to be able to find their self-respect -- to make sure they have the ability to develop pride in themselves," he said.
The findings are also expected to address the more than 3,000 aboriginal children who died from tuberculosis or malnutrition, the high number of aboriginal teenagers in prison, as well as the number of aboriginal children caught up in the child welfare system.
The report makes it clear that successive government have neglected to address the issues facing the community.
But Sinclair hopes that the Liberal government can help to turn over a new leaf.
"We're hoping this government will turn the conversation around by showing leadership in terms of both the nation-to-nation relationship, which is important on a macro level, but also on an individual level by making sure people understand that reconciliation is important, that people have a right to their culture, a right to their language and a right to be supported in those wishes," he said.
The summary report called on federal, provincial and territorial governments to implement 94 sweeping recommendations in hopes of achieving reconciliation, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to fully adopt.
Among the commission's recommendations was a national public inquiry to examine the more than 1,200 aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered since the 1980s.
Last week, the Liberal government launched the "design phase" of a national inquiry, which will involve consultations with affected families, aboriginal community organizations and frontline workers.
The process will elapse over the next two months, and a full inquiry is expected to begin next spring.
"They've taken steps to carry out that commitment and that's important," Sinclair told The Canadian Press.
Sinclair also recognized that Trudeau has so far handled aboriginal issues in a more respectful manner.
"In our calls to action, in our summary report, we did talk about the importance in leadership and the importance of there being a national voice around reconciliation," he said.
"It is also about changing the way we talk to and about each other."
Sinclair said he hopes the inquiry will be tasked with investigating the potential systemic issues related to missing and murdered indigenous women.
"I think really the emphasis is going to be to try to answer the big questions of what happened and why?" Sinclair said.
"It is not just the families, it is also Canadian society. I think Canada needs to know as well: Why is this happening and is it happening elsewhere? That's a bigger question ... is this going on around the world?"
With files from The Canadian Press