AFN Event

December 12, 2010

The Assembly of First Nations is holding an event tomorrow, December 13, 2010, in Ottawa focusing on the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. The event will be webcast live from 8:30am – 4:30pm. Click here for more information and a link to the webcast.

An image from my last trip to Berlin

An interesting article appears in the New York Times today about a contest of memory over the date, November 9 in Germany. The date carries double-meaning as the date of the “Kristallnacht,” as well as the day the Berlin wall was breached.

From the article:

Germans take the business of remembering very seriously, and so Nov. 9 has always presented a bit of a challenge — how to celebrate the joy of the wall’s coming down while at the same time commemorating the night of terror known as Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass….

Years ago, Germany decided to sidestep the awkward historical coincidence by emphasizing Oct. 3, 1990, as the day of unification, and playing down Nov. 9, 1989. But that effort seems to have lost steam. “Memory is about self-interest,” said Maxim Biller, a prominent writer and commentator who is Jewish. “The Germans wanted to reconcile with history, to have a better corporate identity for society, in a way, yes.”

Read the full article here.

To watch the live webcast of Public Education Initiative, presented by the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, connect to the IRSSS site and click on the webcast link. The event is scheduled to run from 8:30am – 4:30pm PST and is hosted by Squamish Nation at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in North Vancouver.

The audience listens to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip the Public Education Initiative.

Grand Chief Edward John addresses the audience via video link

On Tuesday morning (September 28, 2010), the IRS TRC commissioners will give an update on the commission’s progress to the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Their presentation will be webcast live at 9:30am Eastern.  For details, click here, and to watch the webcast, click here.


Photo of Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the IRS TRC,  courtesy of

Blog Link: Media Indigena

August 30, 2010

Check out Media Indigena, a collaborative blog by 7 indigenous contributors. The blog focuses on indigenous issues from around the world and topics range from politics, culture and the environment.  A couple of their recent posts focus on the election of Australia’s first Aboriginal MP and Stephen Harper’s visit to the Canadian Arctic. They’ve also posted about the Indian Residential School system and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For example, check out Sorry is Right and Reflections of a Residential School Survivor.

Stephen Harper's larger-than-life apology at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

It’s been one month since the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission held its first national gathering, and I feel as though I am still processing the event. Over the course of four days, I heard stories of both devastation and strength, of both anger and hope.

Several moments stand out in my memory:

Patrick Etherington Sr., his son Patrick Etherington Jr., Frances Whiskeychan, Christopher Paulmartin and Jorge Hookimaw’llillerre all walked for 31 days to reach the event. Beginning in Cochrane, Ontario, they walked to promote awareness for the reconciliation process. When they arrived at the national gathering in Winnipeg, Patrick Jr. spoke of the lines of communication opened between his father and himself during the walk.

In many ways, they did what I believe the commission hopes people will do: take the process of reconciliation beyond the confines of the commission, and make it personally meaningful. Because, for the most part, the IRS TRC can only be part of this process.

We also heard from those who worked at the schools. In the sharing circle held on the first day, I heard the experiences of a pilot who had taken children from up north to bring them to schools. He told of separating one young girl in particular who was crying because he had just taken her from her Inuit family. He had thought he was doing what was right. A teacher told of her experiences and the difficult conditions at the Indian Residential School where she taught. She read the names of her students in their honor.

One issue that I continue to wonder about since (and during) the event is the place of religion during this process. The churches played an instrumental role in running the Indian Residential School system, and they will play an important role in reconciliation. I noticed some visible discomfort from some people when church representatives addressed the crowds. At the same time, I also heard former students express their connections to Christian faiths. Before the event, I read a short article in the Globe and Mail where Peter Yellowquill, a survivor of the schools said: “The churches committed spiritual genocide. But I am still a Christian man. It’s complicated.”

At the event, the role that religious leaders played was indeed complicated. At times, they offered apologies, at others, I heard denials. At the opening ceremony, the crowd heard native blessings and ceremonies. At the end of his closing remarks during that first ceremony on that first day, I was surprised to hear the Chair of the Commission, Justice Sinclair, offer the Lords Prayer.

After the event, I visited the the Winnipeg Art Gallery. In the foyer of the gallery, they had erected two large art pieces that contained portions of the official apologies given by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the histories involving the taking of Aboriginal children. In some ways, the larger-than-life signs conveyed a sense of power. At the same time, they drew attention to the fact that apologies were simply words. Important words, yes, but they remain meaningless without action.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's official apology in 2008

The IRS TRC is holding an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at their new offices in Winnipeg. The event is open to the public. See the invitation below:


Open House and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Thursday, April 8, 2010

11:30AM – 3PM

1500-360 Main St., Winnipeg, MB.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

will host an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday

April 8, 2010, to officially open the TRC’s offices at

1500-360 Main St., Winnipeg, MB.

We would be delighted if representatives from your office would join Chair Justice Murray Sinclair and Commissioners Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild as well as municipal and provincial dignitaries as we ‘cut the-ribbon’ to our Winnipeg Headquarters. The proceedings will begin at 11:30AM. The open house will be an opportunity for you to visit our Winnipeg facility, chat with the Commissioners, TRC staff, and learn what we have planned for the coming weeks and months.

A light lunch will be served starting at 12:00 (Noon).