Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Excerpts from the final report

OTTAWA -- Excerpts from the seven-volume, 3,766-page Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

"Canada's residential school system for aboriginal children was an education system in name only for much of its existence.

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These residential schools were created for the purpose of separating aboriginal children from their families, in order to minimize and weaken family ties and cultural linkages, and to indoctrinate children into a new culture -- the culture of the legally dominant Euro-Christian Canadian society, led by Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald."

"Children were abused, physically and sexually, and they died in the schools in numbers that would not have been tolerated in any school system anywhere in the country, or in the world."

"The number of students who died at Canada's residential schools is not likely ever to be known in full. The most serious gap in information arises from the incompleteness of the documentary record. Many records have simply been destroyed."

"The most basic of questions about missing children -- Who died? Why did they die? Where are they buried? -- have never been addressed or comprehensively documented by the Canadian government."

"Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next."

"The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources. If every aboriginal person had been 'absorbed into the body politic,' there would be no reserves, no treaties, and no aboriginal rights."

"The schools were intended to sever the link between aboriginal children and parents. They did this work only too well. Family connections were permanently broken. Children exposed to strict and regimented discipline in the schools not only lost their connections to parents, but also found it difficult to become loving parents."

"To the commission, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgment of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour. We are not there yet."

"Reconciliation must support aboriginal peoples as they heal from the destructive legacies of colonization that have wreaked such havoc in their lives. But it must do even more. Reconciliation must inspire aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share."

"While the commission has been a catalyst for deepening our national awareness of the meaning and potential of reconciliation, it will take many heads, hands, and hearts, working together, at all levels of society to maintain momentum in the years ahead. It will also take sustained political will at all levels of government and concerted material resources."

"One hundred years from now, our children's children and their children must know and still remember this history, because they will inherit from us the responsibility of ensuring that it never happens again."

"Current conditions such as the disproportionate apprehension of aboriginal children by child-welfare agencies and the disproportionate imprisonment and victimization of aboriginal people can be explained in part as a result or legacy of the way that aboriginal children were treated in residential schools and were denied an environment of positive parenting, worthy community leaders and a positive sense of identity and self-worth."

"The beliefs and attitudes that were used to justify the establishment of residential schools are not things of the past: they continue to animate much of what passes for aboriginal policy today. Reconciliation will require more than pious words about the shortcomings of those who preceded us. It obliges us to both recognize the ways in which the legacy of residential schools continues to disfigure Canadian life and to abandon policies and approaches that currently serve to extend that hurtful legacy."


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