First Nations leaders say the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released Tuesday marks a new chapter in the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, but counselors say the impact of residential schools remains for survivors' children and their children.
The final report is a detailed account, spanning nearly 4,000 pages, of what happened to indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools.
- Truth and Reconciliation chair says final report marks start of 'new era'
- Terabytes of testimony: Digital database of residential school stories opens to the public
Sharing their stories is an important step but not one that erases the pain that survivors of residential schools feel, says Dr. Heidi Hansen, a clinical counsellor based in West Vancouver.
"Just because you share your story, it doesn't mean your pain will magically go away," she said.
"And this is why there are supports for residential school survivors right now."
Hansen, who works with residential school survivors and their children at her practice, says the impact of the program transcends generations.
"[Survivors] didn't learn how to love themselves they didn't learn how to hug. They didn't learn how to show affection … So you can imagine, when these young children grew up as parents, they were really lost," she said.
"They didn't know how to parent their own children and that's just one example of an intergenerational effect."
But there are supports and resources available for survivors and their children today. Hansen, who is of Cree and German descent, says her late mother, who attended residential school, did not have access to the counseling Hansen now provides to other survivors.
'Look at the bigger picture'
Hansen hopes the stories in the Truth and Reconciliation report will shed light on the problems facing First Nations communities today. If this marks the start of a new relationship between non-indigenous and indigenous people as Justice Sinclair said Tuesday, people need to "look at the bigger picture," says Hansen.
"It's so easy to turn to judgement when we think of somebody that's addicted to alcohol ro addicted to drugs, or incarcerated."
That's part of the legacy residential schools left behind, she said.
"In our communities, a large part of it is there's been a huge loss since our children have been put in residential schools, since our federal government imposed many unfair laws, policies and procedures."
To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Residential school pain remains for families after Truth and Reconciliation final report.