Commission to open hearings in Hardy

B.C. has had many dark moments in its history, but few were as terrible as the time of residential schools.

  • Dec. 22, 2011 8:00 a.m.

B.C. has had many dark moments in its history, but few were as terrible as the time of residential schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Com-mission hopes to help the healing process with a series of four regional hearings on Vancouver Island that begins in Port Hardy Feb. 27 to 28.

Through much of the 19th and 20th centuries, First Nations children were forced to attend these schools.

The stated goal of these schools was to exterminate aboriginal culture and assimilate their inmates into Canadian society.

Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused and even killed.

Much of what went on within those walls can only be described as a crime against humanity; but for decades people pretended it didn’t happen, even though the survivors and their descendants suffered from its effects.

Soon, however, new information will be revealed to all.

“The regional hearings are just four of many that are happening throughout Canada leading up to national events,” commission chair, Murray Sinclair, said in a release.

“The smaller hearings give survivors who may not be able to attend a national event a chance to share their story.”

The commission is gathering information and testimonies about residential schools  in order to create a permanent public record about the schools’ legacy.

Survivors, their families, and school staff are invited to make private or public statements.

There were once five residential schools on Vancouver Island, and the commission estimates there are about 2000 survivors from those schools.

The federal government gave an apology for the residential schools and financial restitution has been given to those who applied for it.

Sadly, some wounds can never heal.

“It can’t fill the holes the schools created in our language, culture and traditional knowledge, our whole way of life was disrupted,” said Cliff Atleo, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and residential school survivor.

He said that the commission’s work won’t do away with the subtle racism his people face, but that it will help.

The final report of the commission’s findings and efforts will be compiled and released in 2014.