Manitoba

'This is a historic day': Manitobans weigh in on TRC final report

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission submits its final report on the legacy of Canada's residential schools, some in Manitoba say the pain that former students have experienced — and that, for many, endures to this day — is finally being formally acknowledged.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission submits report on legacy of Canada's aboriginal residential schools

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission submits its final report on the legacy of Canada's residential schools, some in Manitoba say the pain that former students have experienced — and that, for many, endures to this day — is finally being formally acknowledged. 1:47

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission submits its final report on the legacy of Canada's residential schools, some in Manitoba say the pain that former students have experienced — and that, for many, endures to this day — is finally being formally acknowledged.

"This is a historic day," Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, said before the ceremonial report was released in Ottawa on Tuesday.

"It's a historic day, long in the making, and the day itself was created only through the cries of survivors going back 25, 30, maybe even 40 years ago — cries of survivors to be recognized, cries of survivors to be heard."

Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair greets the audience at the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Led by Manitoba Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission worked over the past six years to gather thousands of hours of testimony from residential school survivors and others in more than 300 communities across the country.

The final report provides a detailed account of what happened to indigenous children who were taken away from their families and home communities and forced to attend government- and church-run boarding schools.

Years of pain and suffering

The commission heard testimony about the effects more than 100 years of mistreatment had on approximately 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children. It is a moving and tragic historical account of what happened to indigenous children, many of whom were physically and sexually abused in the schools.
Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report marks 'a major stepping point in our country's history.' (CBC)

An estimated 3,200 children died of tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases resulting from poor living conditions.

"I believe it's incumbent on all of us to understand how much pain and suffering has been caused by this and to really sincerely listen to survivors in what they're saying, what they went through," Moran said.

Some survivors, such as Vivian Ketchum of Winnipeg, say they are still trying to repair the damage caused by their residential school experiences decades ago.

"I was beaten. I was sexually abused there. I was hit with a shoe and my finger was broken, and my life is still broken today," said Ketchum, 51, who was forced to attend a residential school in Kenora, Ont., run by the Presbyterian Church in the 1970s.

"I am still trying to repair the damage after almost 50 years. I have lost three children. One I have lost contact with, one to a custody battle and one died of a brain tumour."

94 recommendations made

The commission's final report also paints a grim and more fulsome picture of "the growing crisis" of indigenous youth over-represented in Canada's prisons and child welfare system.

While the final report marks "one of the darkest, most troubling chapters in our nation's history," it also attempts to turn the page on a new chapter in the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

A summary report released in June made 94 recommendations to governments, including recommended changes to policies and programs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already committed to implementing all of the commission's recommendations.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, which will house the statements, records, photos and videos gathered by the commission, aims to continue the conversation on residential schools, racism and human rights.

"This is a major stepping point in our country's history," Moran said.

"The calls to action are going to be very helpful, but it's going to take engagement of all Canadians to really realize this goal and vision of reconciliation, true reconciliation, in this country."