Nova Scotia

Truth commissioners visit Eskasoni

A commission documenting the stories of residential school survivors travelling the country stopped in Eskasoni Friday.

A commission documenting the stories of residential school survivors travelling the country stopped in Eskasoni Friday.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission gives people an opportunity to speak openly, or privately, about the residential school system that existed in Canada for more than 100 years.

The federal government set up the $60-million commission in June of 2008. At the same time the House of Commons issued a formal apology for the abuses people suffered at residential schools.

Many First Nations people chose to speak privately, but others said they want the world to know what happened to them at the Shubenacadie Residential School.

Thousands of First Nations children aged seven to 15 across Canada 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 aboriginal children who lived at the Shubenacadie Residential School say it changed their lives.

'Full of rage'

Georgina Denny Doucette, now almost 70, lived there from the ages of eight to 16. She said she left full of rage.

"At 18 when I started drinking. I came straight from residential school at the age of 16, got married at the age of 17 had eight children and through most of them because I didn't have a proper upbringing in that place. I drank," Doucette said.

Doucette recovered but has watched her children and grandchildren carry on the alcoholic legacy.

An Indian agent forced Lottie Johnson and her siblings to go to Shubenacadie when she was 10.

"In my family there was nine of us that went. For me I don't know what I did, but it seemed like every day I was being beat, either I was caught speaking Mi'kmaq or running or doing something," Johnson said.

"I think it was the soap room where they used to keep buckets and mops and a lot of kids used to be locked in there and once I was locked in there for two days," she said. "But I think this was the first time I have been bringing it all together."

The speakers said telling their stories was terribly painful.

One of the Commissioners said their words could shine a light on a dark piece of Canadian history. 

 

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