Residential school survivors tell their truths in Victoria

Thousands expected to attend hearings at Victoria Conference Centre

Up to 3,000 people are expected to participate in a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event at the Victoria Conference Centre on Friday (April 13).

The public can attend the two-day event, which is mandated, in part, to inform Canadians about what happened during the nearly 150-year history of residential schools.

This understanding aims to guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationship, according to the  terms of the commission.

Since Feb. 27, the national commission has been working its way down Vancouver Island, holding smaller hearings in Port Hardy, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Cowichan.

In the days leading up to the larger regional event in Victoria, aboriginal groups are preparing to support their members emotionally through the process.

“The impact of those schools is felt today,” said Bruce Parisian, executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. “Many people who come to programs and services in this organization know about it and are prepared to go and tell their stories. People have to get those stories out so they can move on with life and let the healing process continue.”

The event is also an opportunity to document what’s happened across the country, he said.

The commission was established with a $60-million budget. It is one part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which resulted from a class-action lawsuit launched by former residential school students.

Students, their families and people who taught at the schools are invited to share their experiences this weekend in Victoria. For more details or to register, visit www.trc.ca.

rholmen@vicnews.com

At a glance

1880s: Federal government formally embraces residential school model for aboriginal education

1996: Last residential school closes

150,000: The number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children placed in residential schools

80,000: Former students living today