Vancouver, May 8, 2013.

Re: Commission collects ‘archive of pain’ on shameful chapter in Canadian history, April 29

I read with great interest the article describing a gathering hosted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners. The three leaders, each respected professionals in both First Nations and non-First Nations circles, are to be commended for their dedicated leadership. Each of these settings, which invite former residential school students to talk about their school experiences, must be as emotionally draining for the commissioners as the participants.

Many Canadians are not aware of the “inside story” concerning Indian residential schools. To begin to bridge this gap, last year the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published an interim report of its work over the first three years of its mandate.

The 110-page document, They Came for the Children, is available at no charge at www.trc. ca. By means of both text and pictures, it tackles the difficult topic frankly, yet sensitively. Excerpts from official documents, speeches in parliament, etc. are interwoven with recollections from students, staff and administrators – all of which creates a very accessible book.

The reader is reminded that an Indian residential school system began in the 1880s as a purposeful federal government initiative to “civilize” Canada’s First Nations Peoples through the removal of young children from their families and home communities.

As an illustration of harsh reality, a reader is told that in prairie residential schools during the decades on either side of the turn of the 20th century, an average of 25 per cent of the student population died, due mainly to deplorable conditions of care – a statistic reported by the medical officer of health of the time.

In anticipation of reader discomfort, in the preface to They Came for the Children the commissioners express their hope for a generosity of spirit to guide the transition from a troublesome past to a promising future:

“The history recounted in this book will cause many Canadians to see their country differently. It is painful to discover that, as a nation, we have not always lived up to our ideals.”

“We are called to undertake the ongoing work of reconciliation: to right the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canada. We need to revive old visions in which these communities came together in a spirit of sharing and mutual exchange.”

“We encourage Canadians to read this history, participate in Commission events, and, in the coming years, join in the ongoing task of coming to grips with our nation’s past and charting a future in which we all can take pride.”

I agree!

Cec Race North Vancouver

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