Emotional responses in Manitoba to findings of 'cultural genocide' in residential school report
Published Tuesday, June 2, 2015 4:25PM CST Last Updated Tuesday, June 2, 2015 6:25PM CST
Tuesday’s release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report brought back painful memories for people in Winnipeg who say the effects of residential schools can still be felt today.
Tears streamed down the faces of many in the audience at the University of Winnipeg who assembled to watch a livestream from Ottawa as the commission revealed its findings.
"In the period from confederation until the decision to close residential schools was taken in this country in 1969, Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, the TRC’s chair.
Following the release of the report, a couple hundred people marched down Portage Avenue, right past Eliza Beardy who watched from the sidewalk.
Beardy said she tries not to think about the residential school in Norway House that stole her childhood and destroyed her family.
"A lot of times I think, how many times did my mother's heart break when we were being pulled away from her?” said Beardy, with tears in her eyes.
Taken from her home at the age of six, Beardy spent the next 10 years at the school.
She claims she both witnessed and experienced abuse at the hands of those responsible for her care.
"We cried to each other,” said Beardy. “Imagine yourself being six years of age and trying to console another person."
The TRC report made 94 recommendations, including mandatory curriculum on reconciliation from kindergarten to grade 12, a national centre for truth and reconciliation, monuments in each capital city to honour survivors, and federal funding to preserve aboriginal languages.
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs hopes all Canadians can learn from the commission’s report, and he urges people to explore the parallels between the residential school system and the disproportionate number of indigenous children in foster care today.
"It's all premised and built on systemic racism and beliefs that someone else's ideas are better than our own when it comes to taking care of our young ones, and that's just not the case,” said Nepinak.
The federal government has not confirmed if it will move forward with the report’s recommendations.
The University of Manitoba will house the National Research Centre for Residential Schools.
The archive will hold millions of documents collected by the TRC, including thousands of stories from residential school survivors.