Thank you for inviting us to appear before you today on unceded Algonquin land.
My name is Barbara Morin, and I'm the HR and policy adviser for the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. With me is our executive director, Angela White.
In 1994, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society was formed in B.C. and now has eight regional offices that work directly with survivors and their families in many capacities. IRSSS provides direct community-delivered services, including crisis counselling, crisis support, emotional support and cultural care from our resolution health support workers and our elders team. We provide workshops and presentations to schools, businesses and many organizations, non-native and aboriginal, on a variety of topics, including colonialism, history and impacts, and understanding trauma, anger management and grief and loss. There are many other topics.
Since 1994, IRSSS has worked to counteract the lasting legacy of the Indian residential school and its direct impact on our communities. The impacts from 126 years of residential schools not only affected the 150,000 people who went there but also their family members, whom we call intergenerationals.
The effects destroyed our familial bonds as well as our cultural and linguistic bonds that tied us together as a community. Our services are planned to redress the legacy of the Indian residential schools and reach out to the next generation.
For example, Joe Norris, an elder IRSSS board member, states, “They took away our culture and our language.” Out of the 285 band members in his community only two remain who speak the language. He is a much-used language teacher there. He recounts many stories about the horrific beatings and pain he suffered in residential school. Today at 82, he still bleeds from his ears from many of those attacks. He is a voice for his people to make sure what happened is known and demonstrates our elders' strength, resilience and pride.
IRSSS has recognized that future generations are a great deal of our focus now. They too need reparations and healing. Byron Joseph, our chair, who is also an Indian residential school survivor said, “It's not about us, it's about our families.”
In 2015, when the TRC, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, report came out, it was received with overwhelming support by IRSSS. Since it was a six-year process that reflected what 7,000 survivors had to say, the TRC recommendations were pivotal in advancing the process of reconciliation and Canadian reconciliation in particular. These survivors called for an independent national day for truth and reconciliation. This recommendation was critical. More specifically, TRC recommendation 80 states:
We call upon the federal government in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
TRC recommendation number 80 clearly states a national day for truth and reconciliation. To recognize survivors and to get to the almost forgotten and soon to be forgotten truth, IRSSS believes there must be a way to make this a reality, a historic commemorative day that will focus on the history of the Indian residential school and its impacts on our people.
One of our resolution health support workers, Shirley David, who is an Indian residential school survivor, said, “I believe the world should never forget the history and impacts of our dark history of Canada. Reconciliation is rebuilding broken relationships between first nations and the next generations, restoring friendships, working together on differences. As Justice Murray states, “Education brought us here. Education will help us get away from this.”
Shirley states that as an Indian residential school survivor, she often goes into schools, universities and agencies to share the Indian residential school history, the impacts of healing. At every presentation, many natives and non-natives alike not only never knew about what happened, but are shocked and angry. Education is needed, with generations working together toward mutual understanding.
I believe we should keep June 21 as aboriginal day and have September 30 as a national reconciliation and remembering survivors day. IRSSS hopes that this is a national holiday that will be set aside on September 30 to provide education and information about the past history of IRS, or Indian residential schools, a national day for truth and reconciliation. Rather than a celebratory day, it should be commemorative and be an educational day for Canadians to acknowledge survivors and move towards reconciliation.
It is about the truth about what has happened in our history with residential schools and about educating the public about that. In order to right the wrongs of the past we must have a day that recognizes and includes acknowledgement and commemoration of the survivors, that includes an educational component and that is inclusive.
It is our belief that without truth, justice and healing, there can be no reconciliation.