Gabrielle Scrimshaw is Co-Founder and President at the Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada. Previously, she was an Associate in the Graduate Leadership Program (GLP) at the Royal Bank of Canada.​Gabrielle was born and raised in Northern Saskatchewan and is a proud member of the Hatchet Lake First Nation.

How have you been affected by the legacy of residential schools?

My grandparents on my mother’s side decided to take my mother on the trap line when she was young so she wouldn’t have to go to residential school because they had seen a lot of the abuses that were occurring.  

But sadly, that didn’t mean that my mother was able to escape a lot of the legacy and issues that residential schools left within our family and our communities. She had a lot of demons because of that.

What that meant for me personally, [is that] I grew up without a mom in my life.

I don’t blame my mother for anything. I really don’t, I think she is a beautiful, strong person. I just think that what she had to go through, I can’t imagine.

What do you think is the impact of Truth and Reconciliation commission?

st. mikes'

St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. (TRC)

Within the native community, we talk about education and the need for reconciliation and truth telling. but even in our own communities we’re not aware of what happened.

I wasn’t really aware for the majority of my life why I didn’t grow up with my mother.

This week, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hosts its final national event in Edmonton. We've asked voices from the first generation of aboriginal people who didn't attend a residential school to share their thoughts on reconciliation and what the legacy means to them.

Even though I grew up in a town where there was a big brick worn out residential school just down the road and around our communities — we saw the issues, legacies left from the school but we didn’t talk about it.

We’re only starting to really talk about this and understand and connect the dots and for me this happened really recently.

For me, [understanding] is helping me heal from some of the pain that I had from not growing up with my mother. And [to have] forgiveness and understanding that it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t my fault. It was this terrible legacy left in our community that we’re still dealing with.

Do you think reconciliation is possible?

I really believe that reconciliation can be possible but it’s going to take a long time and there is no one right approach.

'One day, I’ll have kids of my own and my dream for them is to speak their language, to say they’re First Nation and... to be proud and to find strength in that.' - Gabrielle Scrimshaw

As Canadians, we tout our values internationally, we hold our flag up close to our hearts but I think if we really want to live by the values we hold so dear and actually be an inclusive country then [we need] reconciliation.

One day, I’ll have kids of my own and my dream for them is to speak their language, to say they’re First Nation and not to be afraid of any reaction to that and to be proud and to find strength in that. That is my dream for them and that is, I think, right in-line with the values that Canadians say they hold dear.

So, do I think it’s possible? I really hope and think it is.

What are some of the challenges?

Gabrielle Scrimshaw

Gabrielle Scrimshaw appears on a panel at the Ontario Economic Summit in 2012. (Gabrielle Scrimshaw)

Reconciliation is a process that speaks about a relationship and it’s a relationship that involves all Canadians.I think that most Canadians don’t think of reconciliation as “their problem” or an issue they have to deal with but in fact, I think it is a Canadian issue. It’s a Canadian legacy, it’s a Canadian history.

What can non-indigenous Canadians do to help?

''There are significant social savings but also revenue generators that our country is leaving on the table simply by not addressing these issues.' - Gabrielle Scrimshaw

Talk about it. Talk about indigenous issues in this country right now. It’s not only a human rights violation and scar in our country but there is also an economic case to be made for why this is important.

There are significant social savings but also revenue generators that our country is leaving on the table simply by not addressing these issues.And this isn’t thousands of dollars, its actually not millions of dollars, it’s billions of dollars.

It’s a significant amount of money that we’re leaving on the table simply because we’re uncomfortable as a country to talk about it and turn the corner and deal with this issue in order to walk in to a future that we can be proud of.