Truth and Reconciliation CommissionPublished on 2 June 2015 Hansard and Statements by Senator Lillian Eva Dyck
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, this week the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is holding its final public event in Ottawa. Since 2010, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has heard testimony from about 7,000 survivors across the country about their horrific experiences in residential schools.
Some 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their parents and were placed in residential schools to “kill the Indian in the child.” Many experienced brutal physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Children were abused, beaten, subjected to unethical scientific experiments and even tortured with homemade electric chairs. It is estimated that about 6,000 children died and many were buried in unmarked graves.
From the 1880s until 1996, when the last residential school closed in Saskatchewan, Aboriginal children were taught that they were inferior and punished for speaking their own native languages. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, has called this “cultural genocide”. This morning, Justice Sinclair said it was nothing short of “cultural genocide.”
Honourable senators, my mother, Eva McNab Quan, from the Gordon First Nation, attended residential schools. She never talked about it. With all the work that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done, we now understand why Mum was so ashamed of being Indian, why she pretended to be Scottish and why she told us to pretend that we were just Chinese. Residential school had taught her to be deeply ashamed of being an Indian. That shame was passed on to us and was reinforced by actions and attitudes of people around us. I express my deep gratitude to the late Elders Laura Wasacase and Emma Sand, who showed me how to be proud of my Cree Indian heritage.
Honourable senators, the effects of past government policies to kill the Indian in the child are still being seen today. The intergenerational legacy of residential schools is manifested by the high rates of family violence and addictions, the huge numbers of Aboriginal children in foster care, the over-representation of Aboriginals in jails and the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. All of these can be traced back to the damage done by residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the summary of its final report this morning. The truth and reconciliation final report may illuminate a dark and deeply disturbing past, but it will show us the way forward through the 94 recommendations, such as fully implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and initiating a national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Thank God for that.
My heartfelt thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair, Justice Murray Sinclair, and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson for their dedication and leadership in their groundbreaking work on Indian residential schools. Their speeches this morning were inspiring and stirred a lot of emotions. I felt deep sadness and also a great sense of relief. No one can deny the long lasting detrimental legacy of Indian residential schools on Aboriginal peoples. The truth can no longer be denied or ignored. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.