Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a truth and reconciliation commission organized by the parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.[1] The commission is part of an overall holistic and comprehensive response to the Indian residential school legacy. It was officially established on June 2, 2008.

After their closing, Indian residential schools became notorious for allegations of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse and neglect. The commission will look at activities perpetrated within residential schools, as well as the negative impacts of the schools' stated aim, to forcibly assimilate First Nations children. The matter of student deaths at these institutions, and their burial in unmarked graves without the notification or consent of the parents, is an additional item on the agenda.

In March 2008, Indigenous leaders and church officials embarked on a multi-city "Remembering the Children" tour to promote the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.[2] On January 21–22, 2009, the King's University College of Edmonton, Alberta, held an Interdisciplinary Studies Conference on the subject of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the government's role in its administration of the residential schools.

Justice Harry S. Laforme of the Ontario Court of Appeal was named to chair the commission. However, on October 20, 2008, he resigned, citing insubordination by the other commissioners, Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Brewin Morley.[3] Although Dumont-Smith and Morley denied the charge and initially tried to stay on, they both resigned in January 2009.

In June 2009, Judge Murray Sinclair, a judge in Manitoba who became the province's first aboriginal associate chief justice in 1988, was appointed to chair the panel. The other members of the commission are Marie Wilson, a senior executive with the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and Wilton Littlechild, former Conservative MP and Alberta regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.[4]

The TRC has held a series of national events in Winnipeg, Inuvik, Halifax, Saskatoon, Montreal, Edmonton, and, most recently, Vancouver. In 2014, it reported that at least 4,000 aboriginal children died in residential schools.[5]

The TRC's mandate was originally scheduled to end in 2014 with a final event in Ottawa. However, it was extended to 2015 as a large amount of records related to the residential school system was handed over to the commission after the federal government was ordered to do so by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in January 2013.[6]

Unlike the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the Canadian TRC had no power to offer perpetrators the possibility of amnesty in exchange for honest testimony about abuses committed. The Canadian TRC heard overwhelmingly from victims, and little or nothing from perpetrators of abuse.

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