Labrador residential school survivor hopes Trudeau apology will bring closure
Prime Minister announced Thursday that he would apologize to Labrador school survivors
A residential school survivor says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's announced apology will help ease former students' pain over the abuse they suffered.
Cindy Dwyer, a student in North West River from age five to 15, says she was physically, psychologically and sexually abused while there. She was caught off-guard by the news but was glad to hear the prime minister will come to Labrador for the apology to survivors of sexual and physical abuse at residential schools in the province.
I grew up with no sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-value. To this day, sometimes I feel that way.- Cindy Dwyer
"I'm absolutely delighted, and I'm going to make every effort to be there," she said.
"I still have these recurring thoughts of everything that's happened, that went on. I still don't feel any sense of closure to everything that happened to me in the dorm. Hopefully an apology will do that, bring all this to some sort of closure and I can finally move on and away from this and just continue on with my life."
Steven Cooper, a lawyer representing more than a thousand survivors in a class-action lawsuit, says for survivors, the apology is more important than any financial statement.
Some don't want the apology: lawyer
"One person called it the beginning of the end. It's not the final step, but it does go a long way to do two things: it validates their experience, and it lessens the sting of the 2008 apology, which expressly treated Newfoundland and Labrador survivors as if they didn't matter, and that their experiences didn't happen."
There are a few, he said, who don't want it, though.
"Some feel that it's a forced apology. Some just are of the view that no apology's going to change anything," he said, adding that it will be meaningful for the "vast majority" of former students.
"It is something tangible that will help them with their own healing, even all these decades later."
Jim Igliolorte, the liaison between survivors and the federal government, said discussions are currently underway as to what survivors want to see happen with the apology, expected to happen towards the end of September, with former students being asked open-ended questions about what should be included.
Loss of identity
"Would it be important to have Indigenous ceremonies around the apology?" he said. "What kind of considerations should the prime minister give in the context of the apology? About intergenerational harm, about the omission from 2008. All of these sort of things, we're going to put to the students."
Dwyer said her experience left her without any sense of identity.
"You were just another child. You didn't really have an identity," she said.
"I grew up with no sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-value. To this day, sometimes I feel that way. I question everything I do, I feel like maybe I'm not as good as the next person, and that's how I felt growing up, as a child, because that's how we were made to feel. It's awful. It's terrible, and I struggle with it every day."
With files from Mark Quinn and Bailey White