Montreal, April 24th to the 27th, 2013
It was a privilege to hear these painful stories experienced by Aboriginals in residential schools.
These people opened themselves to us with great trust wanting to move forward towards greater reconciliation and understanding between our two nations.
Everything unfolded with enormous respect for their pain, in an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion as if we were walking on our tiptoes on holy ground. It was with this mindset that I took part in this Commission.
I heard two men expressing their painful history through poetry, because the stark reality of it was too difficult to elaborate through ordinary words. I listened to a young girl tearfully relate how her father had just revealed his difficult sojourn in a residential school to her.
I learned with astonishment about the difficulty of an Aboriginal man in revealing his secret, never before revealed to his family: “How will they react if I tell them this? Will my family survive this revelation? How I had wished that I were born ‘ white, to be white’…”
Another speaker who deeply impressed me was a woman who is now a grandmother and who still remembers the little five year old girl who was snatched from her parents to be taken to a residential school. “ I was only a child”, she repeated!
How much harm we have inflicted on these people! We had to take the Indian out of them through this stay in a residential school; they had to be enculturated, assimilated! ...taught our values, our language and our customs…
Because we were given this opportunity to listen to some horrendous stories from our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, we now know more about their suffering; and now a new path is opening to us, one of authenticity and truth about our Canadian history which we can no longer ignore.
We have also begun a journey towards reconciliation through these courageous, compelling and powerful statements. May all these actions, words and discussions be but the beginning of new dialogue and new paths for collaboration with the First Nations.
Claudette Bastien s.n.j.m.