The Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says all professionals need mandatory training on residential schools.

Justice Murray Sinclair wants anyone working with aboriginal people to be required to understand their history.

In the Northwest Territories, the government has created an online training course to do just that. The website can let virtually anyone learn about the territory's people and culture online. 

There are four modules, each about two hours long, in the Aboriginal Culture Awareness Training, each developed specifically for people who work in the territorial government.

'They need to know why people are the way we are in the North here' - Former residential school student Francois Paulette

"This is really important to us," government spokesperson Sheila Bassi-Kellett said. "It's very, very important that every member of the public service of the GNWT has a knowledge and appreciation and understanding and respect for the diverse aboriginal cultures across the NWT."

The training material took a year to develop with the help of six regional aboriginal groups and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 

"We see this training being really valuable for people who have come from down south and have come to the [Northwest Territories] to work for the GNWT in the public service for the first time, its their first exposure to the North," Sheila Bassi-Kellett said.


Former student Francois Paulette says people absolutely need training in the history of residential schools.

That includes a component about the history of residential schools. Former student Francois Paulette says people absolutely need this training. 

"They need to know why people are the way we are in the North here, the whole colonial impact by the residential school, and the aftermath and the people that are suffering because of residential school."

Online training 

Paulette says he would prefer that sort of training happen in person, not just online. 

Bassi-Kellett says the government will be including facilitated sessions. "This is highly sensitive and we know that there can be cases where this may provoke some really intense feelings among people and it may bring things out that perhaps they had tucked away in the backs of their minds," Bassi-Kellett said. "So we've been very deliberate in trying to find facilitators that have a counselling component."

Right now, civil servants are not required to take the Aboriginal Awareness Culture Training. But the plan is to eventually make it mandatory.