Stories of fear and abuse are emerging in Fort Albany as residential school survivors share their experiences with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Commission has spent five years travelling the country to document what happened inside residential schools — and the legacy left behind. In Fort Albany, several hundred students attended St. Anne's residential school until it closed in the mid-1980s.

The stories — many are marked by tears — were difficult to listen to, said CBC News reporter Megan Thomas, who attended the hearings on Tuesday. Some former residents chose to speak in Cree and others in English.


Fort Albany was home to St. Anne's Residential School, which operated until 1984. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

"We have heard stories of sexual and emotional abuse inside [the residential school’s] walls," Thomas reported.

"Others have spoken of severe physical abuse, including an electrified chair that was used to punish children."

Some former students also shared stories of nuns and priests who tried to protect them.

"We heard from children of residential school survivors as well," Thomas continued.

"One man spoke of how his parents had difficulty even giving him a hug after their experience in residential school."

The commission has, over the last few years, held these kinds of hearings in close to 400 communities. The stories will be archived at a national research centre as work continues to build a full history of Canada's residential school system.

This public airing of experiences is also aimed at sparking a larger conversation about healing in Fort Albany.