New Brunswick

Truth commissioners come to Fredericton

A commission documenting the stories of residential school survivors travelling the country stopped in Fredericton Thursday.

A commission documenting the stories of residential school survivors travelling the country stopped in Fredericton Thursday.

Justice Murray Sinclair, who chairs the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said it is one of the darkest chapters in Canada's history.

Thousands of First Nations children aged seven to 15 were forcibly taken from their parents to attend residential schools beginning in the late 19th century.

They were forced to assimilate, and in many cases were physically, mentally and sexually abused.

It wasn't until the 1980s when former residential school students began disclosing the sexual and other forms of abuse they suffered.

The chair said there are lessons to be learned from the accounts of First Nations people who lived through the experience.

The $60-million 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.

Most survivors didn't get to tell their stories when a compensation deal with reached with the federal government in 2007.

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.

"After it's over, we often are told by survivors that for them it was an enlightening experience and opportunity to lift the burden off their shoulders and place it down," said Sinclair.

Sinclair hopes documenting what happened will help survivors heal and will also prevent history from repeating itself.

"They want people to know in the future, when they look back at this time in history, what went on."

The Commission's next stop is Goose Bay, Labrador, then it will travel to several locations in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.

The last of its Atlantic hearings will take place on October 14.  

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