THE CANADIAN PRESS | A long-awaited report on the horrors of Canada’s residential school system calls it nothing short of a “cultural genocide,” making 94 broad recommendations — everything from greater police independence and reducing the number of aboriginal children in foster care to restrictions on the use of conditional and mandatory minimum sentences.
The summary of the Truth and Reconciliation report, out today, is the culmination of six emotional years of extensive study into the church-run, government-funded institutions, which operated for more than 120 years.
“Canada separated children from their parents, sending them to residential schools,” says the summary. “This was done not to educate them, but primarily to break their link to their culture and identity.”
The scope of the commission and its report is staggering. The full report, weighing in at six volumes and thousands of pages, will be released later this year.
The commission, prompted by the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, found neglect was institutionalized and students were often “prey to sexual and physical abusers.”
It goes so far as to recommend additional CBC funding, a statutory holiday to honour survivors and an apology from the Pope on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church.
“The thousands of survivors who publicly shared their residential school experiences at TRC events in every region of this country have launched a much-needed dialogue about what is necessary to heal themselves, their families, communities and the nation,” the summary says.
It says the Canadian government declared aboriginal people unfit parents by establishing the system administered mostly by Roman Catholic, Anglican, United, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.
More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada and the federal government has estimated at least 150,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit students passed through the system. The last school, located outside of Regina, closed in 1996.
The TRC’s recommendations call on federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as “the framework for reconciliation.”
The summary also makes clear that the expectations of the aboriginal community in the wake of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s historic apology for the residential-school tragedy in 2008 have not yet been met.
“The promise of reconciliation, which seemed so imminent back in 2008 when the prime minister, on behalf of all Canadians, apologized to survivors has faded,” it says.
“Without truth, justice and healing, there can be no genuine reconciliation.”