Saskatchewan

Métis reflect on Residential School experiences

Métis people gathered in Saskatoon to talk about the legacy of residential schools and the impact the experience had on their lives.
Métis gathered in Saskatoon to reflect on Residential School experiences, Steve Pasqualotto reports. 1:59

Métis people gathered in Saskatoon to talk about the legacy of residential schools and the impact the experience had on their lives.

"We went through a lot there and we'll be discussing some of that," Clem Chartier, president of the Métis National Council, said at the opening of the gathering.

Chartier was a student at a boarding school in Ille-a-la-Crosse.

Many people spoke about how difficult it was to be away from home at a young age.

Norman Fontaine, 68, went to a boarding school in Manitoba and said the memory of how he felt remains strong.

"Kind of sad and lonely," he said. "Kind of lost."

People at the gathering said their experiences at residential schools were no different than what First Nations had to go through and included sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

"They used to hit us with big rulers, not the wooden side — the steal part and there was a lot of straps," Fontaine recalled. "I think it would be grade 3 or 4 when that nun, she hit me so hard I fell off my chair and I saw stars."

Despite the similarities to First Nations' experience with Residential Schools, Métis  say the federal government has not treated the two groups in a similar way.

For one thing, Robert Doucette, president of the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan, said there should be an apology.

"It's unfinished business," Doucette said. "And until there is a direct apology made to Métis survivors, that process of reconciliation can't go forward," Doucette said.

The gathering will also discuss ways of healing and moving forward, and could include things like political action or exploring legal options.

Fontaine said just hearing someone saying 'Sorry' would be a good start to the beginning of the healing journey.

With files from CBC's Dan Kerslake and Steve Pasqualotto