Brianna Lizotte plays her fiddle during a break in the Truth and Reconciliation proceedings at Red Deer College on Thursday. The meetings which are open to the public continue today and feature The Right Honourable Joe Clark who is an honourary witness and the commissioner of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Brianna Lizotte plays her fiddle during a break in the Truth and Reconciliation proceedings at Red Deer College on Thursday. The meetings which are open to the public continue today and feature The Right Honourable Joe Clark who is an honourary witness and the commissioner of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Aboriginals talk about dark part of Canada’s past

John Sinclair cannot describe what happened in residential schools, but he knows the impact.

John Sinclair cannot describe what happened in residential schools, but he knows the impact.

Sinclair’s grandmother was taken from her family and sent to a government-mandated residential school in Alberta.

On Thursday, the first day of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada hearing at Red Deer College, Sinclair, who lives in Trochu, opened his heart.

The community event is the first of five to be held in Alberta this summer, leading up to a national event next March in Edmonton. The public hearings allow those affected by Indian residential schools to share with the commission and to inform members of the public about a dark episode in Canada’s past.

Sinclair said he was raised by his grandparents because his 15-year-old mother did not want to raise him.

Sinclair, 58, said most of his life has been plagued by alcoholism, drugs, broken relationships and violence. He served time in jail and only began turning his life around and learning about his culture in 1990.

He said the impacts are so far reaching that it is impossible to determine the loss because there is so much grief that hasn’t been dealt with.

While telling his truth stirred up his emotions, Sinclair said he wanted to get the message across that throwing money at a problem does not help.

“Our jails are filling up with indigenous people because the healing isn’t happening,” said Sinclair.

A former residential school teacher in Morley, David Gilchrist wept openly, as did many who shared and listened at one of the public panels on Thursday.

Gilchrist said he has carried a burden for an act that has weighed on his conscience for 60 years. He used the strap on two young students. He asked forgiveness from the family of two boys.

When the 2007 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement was reached, the commission was created.

Muriel Stanley Venne, vice-president of Remembering the Children Society and the host of the event, said it is important to have these stories shared and written into history.

“I was told if you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen,” said Venne. “It is extremely important that we document. We think about how the people exist and recognize their worth.”

Venne said she is thankful for the apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 11, 2008, and the process now in place.

“That is monumental,” said Venne. “It hasn’t solved the problem yet but it is absolutely wonderful.”

Gordon Williams, a member of the TRC Survivor Committee, said there is always hope that the story of residential schools eventually will become part of the education curriculum.

“That way it becomes a process of understanding rather than these events that focus on it specifically,” said Williams.

Eugene Arcand, a Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, said avoiding this time in history is not good for anyone. He says it has to be acknowledged and studied to understand the residual effects of residential schools that affect society today.

He said the cycle of incarceration and children in care needs to stop and he hopes it ends in his lifetime.

“We have to respect the principles of co-existence, and co-existence won’t take us long if we understand the impacts of residential schools,” said Arcand. “Because they impact us today. It impacts me as a residential school survivor. My children are impacted. My grandchildren were impacted. I want it stopped with my grandchildren.”

The commission, which is open to the public, continues today at Red Deer College. For a full list of events and to listen to live streaming panels, go to www.trc.ca.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rocky Mountain House RCMP are investigating a fatal collision involving a pedestrian on Feb. 27. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

Collision occured west of Rocky on Highway 11A

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

March will be dramatically warmer through the prairies

Bharat Masrani, CEO, TD Bank Group speaks at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, November 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

Shares in metals and mining companies have rebounded sharply

A worker carrying a disinfectant sprayer walks past a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after cleaning another plane at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

Layoff notices to go out ahead of the expiration of a memorandum of agreement

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

Canada has ordered 24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside Red Deer courthouse for slain Ponoka man

Sentencing for accused charged with manslaughter with a firearm set for March 4

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson makes a shot against Team Alberta as second Shannon Birchard, right, and lead Briane Meilleur sweep in the semi-final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Kerri Einarson wins second straight Canadian women’s curling championship

Einarson and her teammates celebrated Sunday in the silence in an empty arena

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes on Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
With loved ones and pets, Globes winners embrace cozier show

Nicole Kidman and musician-husband Keith Urban got glammed up to sit on their couch

The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” pose for a photo after winning the Award for Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Schitt’s Creek nabs two Golden Globes for its final season

Catherine O’Hara named best television actress in a musical or comedy

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

Most Read