Residential schools conference draws crowd
A Winnipeg conference examining the effects of residential schools has so far played host to large crowds — including people employed in the fields of education and corrections.
The Hidden Legacy conference was developed to look at why there continues to be high rates of incarceration, addictions and low education rates among children of residential schools survivors.
About 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in more than 130 residential schools across Canada from the late 1870s until the last school closed in 1996.
The schools were government-funded and meant to force the assimilation of young aboriginal people into European-Canadian society.
Many students were forbidden to speak their native languages or otherwise engage in their culture at the schools, which were run by churches.
Some were physically, sexually and psychologically abused at the schools.
Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), said the conference was created after last year's Truth and Reconciliation Commission events — also held in Winnipeg — focused mainly on survivors.
Evans said the scope of healing needs to be widened.
"Break the cycle of what the residential school experience did to their parents and grandparents," Evans said. "That's why it's important people talk about it."
Addictions expert and author Dr. Gabor Mate said childhood trauma and a lack of good role models for parenting continues to affect the aboriginal community.
"The basis of addiction is always trauma. It shapes the brain, it shapes the personality and it creates a spiritual emptiness that people will then try to fill with their addictive substances," Mate said.
David Holliday, who works with the Salvation Army in Saskatchewan, said he felt he needed to attend the conference.
"I felt to educate myself fully would only be of benefit," he said.
The conference, being held at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, wraps up Thursday.