P.E.I. survivors of Indian residential schools had an opportunity Tuesday to testify about their horrific treatment at the hands of the federal government and the church.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission held an all-day hearing at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel. The commission gives people an opportunity to speak openly, or privately, about the residential school system that existed in Canada for more than 100 years.
Marie Knockwood wrote a song about her time at the Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia. She told the hearing about sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of a nun.
Knockwood said she doesn’t blame God.
"God was just a victim as well as I was. He was used to take me there. And to brutally treat me. There wasn't a day that didn't go by where I wasn't beaten," she said.
Approximately 30 survivors and their families gathered for the first hearing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on P.E.I.
Roddy Gould was sent to Shubenacadie at the age of four.
"That's the first time I felt fear," he said.
Over three years, Gould was physically, sexually and emotionally abused at the school.
"In the dormitory the priest did things to me, and the nuns also," he said.
"I remember many times in the classroom I looked out the window thinking about my mom. [The] first time someone put me on the back of the truck, I still picture it, waving at my mom.."
Between 100 and 150 Island Aboriginal children were sent to Shubenacadie from the 1920s until 1967.
They were removed from their families by the federal government. The Catholic Church ran the school. They were forced to assimilate, and in many cases were physically, mentally and sexually abused.
It wasn't until the 1980s that former residential school students began disclosing the sexual and other forms of abuse they suffered.
In 2000, Gould founded the group Aboriginal Survivors for Healing.
"We came together like we did in the residential school. We came alone there and supported each other," he said.
The $60-million Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in June 2008, was formed by the federal government. At the same time, a formal apology was issued in the House of Commons for the abuses people suffered at residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission moves to Indian Brook, Nova Scotia on Oct. 12.