Survivors of residential schools on the James Bay Coast are telling their stories this week as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was to start two days of hearings in Fort Albany on Monday.
The TRC has a mandate to document stories from across the country about forced cultural assimilation and abuse. The hearings in Fort Albany are the commission's only stop on the James Bay Coast.
Fort Albany was home to St. Anne's Residential School, which operated until 1984.
Created as part of a historic settlement reached with survivors in 2008, the commission is nearing the end of its mandate and is expected to produce a report by 2014.
Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair is chair of the TRC, which is expecting to hear from people who attended St. Anne’s. People have been encouraged to speak publicly, but can speak privately also.
Sinclair has said the commission has started "a national dialogue that sheds light on a terrible chapter in our history."
The two days of hearings are intended to be an opportunity to educate the public about the residential school system that existed in Canada for more than 100 years, and give former students, staff and others whose lives have been affected by the experience a chance to talk about it publicly.
The goal was to help survivors heal and "close the divide between aboriginal people and the rest of Canadians," Sinclair said.