This is my personal exploration of Truth and Reconciliation and then my personal reflection.
What is it? It is mandated that Canadian citizens have to learn about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS) and the Commission will document anyone who survived or is personally affected, through relation or community, by the IRS experience. The goal of Truth and Reconciliation is to create better relationships between the Aboriginal peoples of Canada and other citizens based on mutual respect and understanding.
What happened in Indian Residential Schools?– around 150,000 Aboriginal children were amen from their families across Canada and placed in schools separated from their families and communities. The last Residential School did not close until the mid- 1990’s. The goal of these schools was to assimilate these Aboriginal students into the dominant culture (Western culture) by separating them from their families and their traditions. This objective was based on the assumption that Aboriginal culture was inferior to Western Culture because it was different. The system was administered by churches to essentially brainwash the children into taking a Euro-Canadian and Christian way of living. They forbade the students from speaking in their native tongues as well as practicing their culture and if rules were broken they were punished severely. The abuse was any singular or, more likely, combination of the following: physical, phycological, sexual and emotional.
The devastating effect of residential schools is still seen in Aboriginal communities today; generations of culture was lost, it is often referred to as “cultural genocide”. Also we can’t forget the emotional turmoil these children went through. They were robbed of a nurturing home life with their families and therefore sometimes cannot find the proper skills to raise or participate in families of their own.
Going forward for me, I was not aware of the hardships that happened for the Aboriginal peoples of Canada so recently in regards to IRS and education. In my lifetime of 23 years there were kids still in the last few IRS in Canada, since the last one closed in the mid- 1990’s and that really opened my eyes to the issue and made it relevant and relatable to me personally. I always wondered, ignorantly, why the education of Aboriginal children was always such a widely discussed topic. But now I understand that because they were robbed of a nurturing education full of their culture as well as higher than a grade five level of education, the topic deserves to be brought to attention time and time again. It needs to be remembered so we can avoid this problem in the future and learn from our mistakes.