'Incredible honour' to be named to truth commission: Wilson

Yellowknifer Marie Wilson, who was named Wednesday to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says she looks forward to documenting the native residential school experience.

Yellowknifer Marie Wilson, who was named Wednesday to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says she looks forward to documenting the native residential school experience.

Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl confirmed the appointment of Wilson, a former journalist and senior executive with CBC North, to the panel that will gather anecdotes from former students of residential schools.

Wilson will be joined by Manitoba Judge Murray Sinclair, who will chair the commission, and by Wilton Littlechild, Alberta regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

"It's an incredible honour," Wilson told CBC News in an interview. "The other commissioners are of such incredible stature, and to be part of that team to begin this work, I think it's so important.

"I think it's going to be an amazing opportunity to have survivors have their story told, and hopefully told in a way that it can be documented and remembered for the future."

The truth commission is being revived after months of internal wrangling among its former members, who all resigned in the past year.

'I live with this story'

Wilson is currently vice-president of operations for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. She is married to Stephen Kakfwi, a former premier of the Northwest Territories.

While Wilson acknowledged she is neither aboriginal nor a residential school survivor, she said her experience as a researcher and storyteller will make her an effective member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Aspects of her personal life, she said, will also help in her role as commissioner.

"I live with this story. You know, my family is directly affected. I live with a … residential school survivor," she said.

"We are the intergenerational story in a microcosm in our home. So I actually think I know quite a lot about that."

The commission has been stalled since its original chairman, Justice Harry LaForme, resigned on Oct. 20, six months into his mandate.

In resigning, Laforme cited an "incurable problem" with the other two commissioners, whom he said refused to accept his authority as chairman and were disrespectful.

Panel's timeline extended by one year

Original commissioners Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley denied the charge and initially tried to stay on, but both resigned in January to clear the slate for an entirely new commission.

The revamped commission, with Sinclair, Wilson and Littlechild, is now expected to finish its work by 2014. Strahl extended the $60-million commission's initial timeline by one year to make up for the delays.

Reaction to the revived commission has been mostly positive from aboriginal and survivor groups, with many expressing hope that the panel will begin its work soon.

But national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) called for an Inuit sub-group within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as none of the new commissioners is Inuk.

Meeting in Nain, Labrador, ITK leaders passed a resolution Wednesday calling for the commission to establish an Inuit subcommission that would ensure Inuit are fully consulted during the panel's process.