Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TRC...the Inuit are calling!

We’ll hear from Inuit residential school students, commissioner says
“We know that we have a significant obligation to the Inuit.”

So read the headline in the NUNATSIAQ ONLINE news published June 28, 2010 and written by a Chris Windeyer.

Great to read that the commissioner, Murray Sinclair, will pay attention to the Inuit story as it begins its mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as he and the other two commissioners visited Iqaluit, NU on June 24, 2010.  I’d like to see a full commitment of the three commissioners to the North but, already, the Inuit seem to be secondary as the commission went to Iqaluit only upon an invitation by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).

(Photo by Chris Windeyer)

While the Inuit experienced the former residential system like the First Nations and M├ętis, they seem to take a bit of a back seat when it comes to a high level presence in organizations such as the TRC whereas the First Nations community is always well represented. Two of the three commissioners are First Nations and the other is a white person. More examples can be found in the former Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. While those two aforementioned organizations addressed issues regarding all Aboriginal people, they were both headed up, again, by a First Nations member.

The TRC is planning seven National Events across the country with only one of those events to be held in the North. The commission went on to say, “We know perfectly well that one event in the North is not going to do it.” Even with that understanding, again, the North seems to take a back seat while the South will be well served with six National Events.

ITK president Mary Simon and other ITK delegates said TRC events need to start happening in the North as soon as possible, because too many elders have already died waiting for a chance to tell their stories to the commission.

Yes, the TRC has a significant obligation to the Inuit.  Given its mandate, I have full confidence, in the end, the TRC will be as mighty in words as in deeds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


“An uneasy reconciliation for church, survivors.
Mixed reaction to religious groups role in truth-finding highlights complicated relationship between former students and Christianity.

So read the headline in the GLOBE AND MAIL published June 15, 2010 written by a Patrick White.

FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN, a movie thriller inspired by true events. Winner of the World Cinema Directing and Screenwriting awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, stars Liam Neeson,
James Nesbitt, and Anamaria Marinca in a compelling human drama about two men haunted by a tragic act of violence.

In 1975, 17-year-old Alistair Little assassinated 19-year-old Jim Griffin. Jim's murder was witnessed horrifically by his 11-year-old brother, Joe, and the impact of the death destroyed Joe and his family. Little was arrested, convicted and sent to prison. In this fictional exploration of the lives of real men, Alistair and Joe are given the opportunity to reconcile 30 years after the terrible event. Can a killer and his traumatized victim make peace?

I saw the movie; reconciliation was attempted but never reached.

Now, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is about to embark on a similar story. The stage is set to take place between former students (Survivors) of Canada’s former residential school system and the various churches. Like the movie outlined above, the process will be “uneasy.” Peter Yellowquill, former chief of the Long Plains First Nation has said, “It’s going to be tough to share these difficult stories while looking your perpetrators in the eye.” Like the question above, can the killer, in this case, the church and government and his traumatized victim make peace?

For all of us who attended our respective residential school, the church remains instilled in our memory, unfortunately a memory that cannot be erased. In my case, it was the Catholic Church. Since leaving Grollier Hall in Inuvik, NT in 1975 and after 13 years in attendance, I have not and will not step into another Catholic church and still today, I despise who they are and what they perceive to represent.

Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations had said, “You can never achieve reconciliation unless you bring all parties together.” I disagree. Like the young brother, Joe, outlined in the movie above, and who had horrifically witnessed the killing of his brother was too traumatized to consider any reconciliation when confronted with the killer of his older brother.

William Asikinack, Survivor, has said, “Because of what happened (the trauma), I don’t attend church. I know a lot who feel the same.” I concur. Furthermore, like him, I too have not decided whether I will attend any of the TRC events.

The church and government have taken away 13 years of my life. 13 years of life that should have been spent with my Mother and Father and other siblings who certainly would have given me the love and attention deserving to me as a developing child. Instead they chose to abduct, abuse, and now I abhor the church.

I don’t think the church and government deserve my FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN in front of the TRC.