EDMONTON — The last of seven Truth and Reconciliation Commission national events will be held in Edmonton in the final week of March.
Hearings are set for the Shaw Conference Centre on March 27-30.
Willie Littlechild, a commissioner with the commission, expects more than 2,000 former students to hear the stories from those residential school survivors who were subjected to abuse.
Littlechild says there are still 12,000 residential school survivors living in Alberta, more than any other province, with the majority of them in and around Edmonton.
About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken from their families and forced to attend the government schools over much of the last century.
The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.
“I really hope that this will give us strong impetus to our mandate which is calling on us to publicly educate Canada as to what happened in the residential schools,” Littlechild, a former MP, told reporters Monday.
“In some cases we’ve actually almost categorized it as a beginning of reconciliation. This is not the end of it, although this is the last national event. It’s really a start of reconciliation and it gives me an opportunity to thank you, the City of Edmonton, for having the only declaration that I know of in the country with indigenous peoples.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the hearings a great opportunity for residents to come together with indigenous people.
“Talk about some of the challenges in the more recent history, particularly the residential school troubles and then having heard that move into reconciliation, which is important for all Edmontonians to deal with.”
Edmonton won the hosting rights in part because it was first to show interest 4 1/2 years ago, beating out other locations like Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie, Littlechild said.
The city’s community services committee has recommended a donation of $250,000 towards the $2 million event in both cash and in-kind services.
To settle a class-action suit arising out of the residential school system, the federal government apologized and set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document the abuses.