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A damning report culminates a six-year examination of Canada’s residential schools that oversaw the ill-treatment of aboriginal children for more than a century.
OTTAWA—The Truth and Reconciliation Commission urges all Canadians to rise to the enormous challenge of righting the wrongs committed by residential schools, even if it takes generations to reverse the ongoing effects of cultural genocide.
“We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you a path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing,” Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told a packed ballroom in a downtown Ottawa hotel Tuesday.
The exhortation came on an emotionally charged day that saw the commission release a heart-wrenching and damning 381-page summary of its final report detailing the history and legacy of residential schools — largely operated by churches and funded by the Canadian government — that saw 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children come through their doors for more than a century.
The report also describes how the legacy of residential schools — described as a central component to a government-led policy of cultural genocide — continues, not only through the direct effect that generations of institutionalization and abuse have had on survivors and their families, but how it is manifested in racism, systemic discrimination, poverty and dying indigenous languages.
It includes 94 recommendations, including the call for a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation that, if implemented, would amount to a complete overhaul of the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples, the Crown and other Canadians.
Sinclair acknowledged that responding to the calls to action would take time, money and effort, but that political leadership could — and should — be implemented right away.
“The one thing that I am confident of is the cost of doing nothing is worse than the cost of doing something,” said Sinclair, who with fellow Commissioners Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild met Prime Minister Stephen Harper at his request Tuesday afternoon.
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