The commission examining the treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools in the early 1900s is holding its first meetings in Quebec.
The Federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Native Residential Schools — the organization looking at how aboriginal children were treated in residential schools in the country — will be gathering testimony on Quebec’s North Shore this week.
The commission will be hearing testimony from former residential school students in the Innu community of Mani-Utenam near the city of Sept-Îles.
The Notre-Dame de Malioténam residential school for aboriginal children was located there between 1952 and 1970.
Anne-Marie André, who attended the school for three years in the 1950s, said she did not suffer any physical abuse during her time there but is scarred nonetheless.
"It’s a childhood trauma to be taken away from your parents," she said.
She said it was her parents’ job to teach her how to love, speak and hug. Instead, she said she was forcibly removed from her family and her culture.
André Volant, who helped organize the meetings in Mani-Utenam, said the commission has a team of counsellors in place to help witnesses deal with their emotions.
He said people listening to the testimony can sometimes relive their own personal experiences.
After the meetings, which end on Wednesday, the commission will be heading to Val-d’Or in the Abitibi region next month and to Montreal in April.
Aboriginal residential schools were created across Canada beginning in the 1870s. The schools, which were run by the Catholic Church, were often accused of assimilating children to a non-native lifestyle.
Children enrolled in the schools were not allowed to speak their maternal language or to practice their cultural traditions.