Truth and Reconciliation: What does it mean to Northerners?

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded on Wednesday, N.W.T. residents reacted to the legacy of residential schools, with some preaching hope and remembrance, and others saying it's time to 'get over it.'

Reactions mixed to report, some say it's time to 'get over it' and others hope for remembrance

High school student Carmyn McNeely stands in front of a 'heart garden,' planted in memory of those who died in residential school. To her, reconciliation includes 'forgiveness. Moving on, and being happy.' (CBC)

As the seven-year-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission ended Wednesday, reactions poured in from across the North.

While Northern indigenous leaders spoke publicly about their thoughts on the commission's recommendations and steps for the future, many people reacted on social media using the hashtag #MyReconciliationIncludes, including singer Tanya Tagaq:

Still others spoke with CBC North on the streets of Yellowknife, and although most opinions of the commission's work were positive, some northerners said they were simply tired of hearing about it.

One Yellowknifer, who asked not to be identified, said she wanted aboriginal people to "get over it." She's had a tough life, she elaborated, and said she doesn't receive any special compensation. 

Others were even more dismissive of the TRC's work — a sign that despite the commission's years-long campaign to raise awareness of the personal and cultural trauma caused by residential schools, not everyone is empathetic, even in a territory that is 50 per cent aboriginal.

Most reactions hopeful

However, far more reactions recognized the lasting legacy of residential schools on the North's aboriginal population, with many taking a hopeful tone towards the future — without forgetting the past.

"I think reconciliation means that every day, we remember that this land first belonged to the aboriginal people," said Gerda Hazenberg. "And that we honour them."
"I think reconciliation means that every day, we remember that this land first belonged to the aboriginal people," said Gerda Hazenberg. "And that we honour them." (CBC)

Gail Cyr, who is seeking the Liberal nomination for the Northwest Territories in the upcoming federal election, said that, to her, reconciliation "includes dealing with a whole bunch of issues that aboriginal people have been faced with over the years.

"It's residential school, but it's also the foster care system. It's the missing and murdered aboriginal women and men. And this persistence of stereotype that people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis."

Near Yellowknife's city hall, a group of students from St. Patrick High School "planted" paper hearts in a small garden, remembering those who died in residential school. Similar gardens were also planted in Nunavut.

Student Katrina Semple said the group chose to plant the hearts "because in heaven, maybe they can see what we are doing."

To high school student Carmyn McNeely, reconciliation "includes forgiveness. Moving on, and being happy."


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