Truth and reconciliation sharing begins Thursday

Residential school truth and reconciliation hearings begin in Williams Lake Thursday.

Former students, their family members and others who have been affected by Canada’s Indian Residential Schools are invited to share their experiences with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), May 16 to 18 as part of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School Commemoration Project.

Everyone who would like to learn about and bear witness to the legacy of the schools is encouraged to attend.

Statements may be made publicly at sharing panels conducted by Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC, or privately.

Public sharing panels are scheduled in the gymnasium, Thompson Rivers University, Williams Lake:

Thursday, May 16 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 17 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Private statement gathering will begin May 16 and continue through Monday, May 20. Health support workers will be on hand.

Sharing panels are free to the public and will be streamed live at www.trc.ca.

The TRC is an independent commission established as a result of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in the 150-year history of the residential schools, and to guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

In Williams Lake both the city and the Cariboo Regional District have declared Sept. 30 as “Orange Shirt Day,” annually as an acknowledgement of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self worth, self-esteem and well-being and the pain suffered by the children who attended and their families, and as an affirmation of both local governments’ commitment to standing together to ensure that everyone matters.

The idea came after former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School student Phyllis Webstad told a story during a panel discussion on April 26 about her grandmother buying her a new shiny orange shirt for her first day of school.

Upon arrival at school, the shirt and her other clothes were taken away, and replaced with a uniform.

“I couldn’t wear orange for many years,” Webstad said.

Monuments honouring residential school students will be unveiled at the former St. Joseph Mission School site on Thursday May 16 and in Boitanio Park on Friday May 17. Both ceremonies begin at 11 a.m.

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