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Residential school system probe in Victoria for hearings

Apr 12 2012

ABOUT THE COMMISSION

? The Truth and Reconciliation

Commission was established in 2008 to tell Canadians about the history of residential schools and guide a process of reconciliation between aboriginal families and communities, churches, governments and other Canadians.

? Indian Residential Schools operated in Canada between the 1870s and 1996.

? More than 150,000 First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in the schools.

? While some students had positive experiences, many suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

? For more information, see www.trc.ca

The heart of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's regional event in Victoria Friday and Saturday will be emotionally charged statements from residential school survivors and their families as they explain the legacy of generations of children taken from their homes.

But Ry Moran, TRC director of statement gathering, is hoping the commission will also be reaching into homes and communities where little thought has been given to Canada's history of residential schools.

"We, as Canadians, are part of the residential school system, even though some of us don't realize it," Moran said. "Maybe this is a chance to come and own a bit of this history and understand it. It's our history and it's not a pretty history in many ways."

Members of the public are encouraged to sit in on sessions at the Victoria Conference Centre, as well as take in the entertainment, art exhibition and lunch.

There will also be an experimental town hall on reconciliation, moderated by broadcaster Shelagh Rogers, at 3: 30 p.m in the Crystal Gardens both days.

"We want to challenge people to think about what reconciliation really means. How do we take the next steps as a city, a province or a nation?" Moran said. "What does the unwrapping of this history mean?"

A highlight will be a display of paintings, in the Fairmont Empress Crystal Ballroom, created by students who attended Alberni Indian Residential School between 1958 and 1960.

"We are just starting to reconnect people with these paintings and let them know they exist," said Andrea Walsh, associate professor and visual anthropologist at the University of Victoria.

The paintings were bequeathed to the university by Robert Aller, an artist who taught weekly art classes at the school.

Another group will be showing digital stories that profile resistance to residential schools.

The project by UVic's Centre for Youth and Society is designed to allow aboriginal young people to identify and celebrate resistance strategies that allowed families and communities to survive residential schools.

The seven stories ignite a fire, said project coordinator Asma Antoine, a member of the Toquaht First Nation. "The passion of resistance that validates survival and resiliency of First Nations people and communities provides hope for healing and reconciliation over the next generation," she said.

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