Truth and Reconciliation visits Yellowknife days ahead of national centre opening

Truth and Reconciliation visits Yellowknife days ahead of national centre opening
William Greenland opens the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation community engagement session in Yellowknife. Photo courtesy of Rose Hart.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission may be done collecting stories from residential school survivors, but that just means it’s time to address the next task at hand.

With the opening of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba this week, those at the organizational level are focused on telling people’s stories of residential school with dignity.

“Because this is the survivors’ information we have to ask their permission,” said Rose Hart, community engagement coordinator for the NCTR. “Do they want us to make the documents public or keep them private? There’s some sensitive information in the documents, especially the admission records.”

Hart, community engagement officer with the TRC, along with director Ry Moran and education lead Charlene Bearhead, stopped in Yellowknife last week to host one of 18 sessions held across the country within the last month. About 34 folks showed up to the meeting, held at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.

“All this information is sacred information because it is the survivor’s experience,” she continued. “It’s the 7,000 hours of oral history that we have with their testimonies of what happened to them in residential school. You have to realize Canada has made a lot of its documents public without asking.”

For those who have shared their stories of surviving residential school, the face-to-face discussion signals a sign of respect.

“My voice is my power and I have the power to say yes, or I can say no (to making my documents public),” said Hart, a survivor herself. “I think only my family can access my documents or you can redact the information and then make it public.”

The NCTR will open on Nov. 4, with a day of education the day before. At that time, data from the TRC will become public. For those not living in Manitoba, the institution is coordinating with friendship centres across the country to make the information accessible.

Taking action on TRC recommendations in Yk

While discussions were ongoing with the NCTR, the city of Yellowknife was making its own moves to follow up on the work of the commission.

In a meeting held on Oct. 26, council moved to adopt four recommendations from the TRC.

These included:

  • Article 43: Adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Article 47: The Mayor corresponds with the GNWT to ensure that any and all laws that rely upon the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius are repudiated. Complete devolution of land and resources and implement a regulatory system that reflects the values of our residents and partner governments;
  • Article 57: That funding be identified for the provision of skill-based training for all City staff to undergo that will provide a learning experience on the history of Aboriginal peoples relating to residential schools; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Treaties and Aboriginal Rights, Indigenous Law; and, Aboriginal–Crown relations.
  • Articles 75, 76 and 77: The Mayor correspond with the GNWT and School Boards encouraging them to ensure that they provide any and all information pertaining to identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries/sites where residential school children are buried, and for them to provide all known records to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Further work is being conducted to consult local indigenous groups on how to best move forward with the TRC-related initiatives, and to hire a qualified consultant to train city employees on the matter and to budget for these programs; a $50,000 to $75,000 budget has been estimated so far.

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