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Liberal leader Justin Trudeau watches a video at the closing ceremony for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at Rideau Hall that included testimony from former residential school students.

IMG_5618Two seats beside Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq  and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt remained empty symbolizing the children who died in residential schools.

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After leading the gathering in prayer, elder Evelyn Commanda-Dewache, a residential school survivor, hugged Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Aboriginal leaders and church leaders at the closing ceremony of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s six-year study, held at Rideau Hall June 3.  Harper made no comment at the event but released a statement later.  “While this is an important milestone in getting our country past the days of Indian residential schools, work is still needed to help heal the pain and restore trust from that wrong,” he said. “I would like to express my deep thanks to all of the former students of residential schools who, along with their family and community members, came forward to share painful memories about the residential school system so that our country might begin the process of healing.”

IMG_5680“This is a moment to reflect upon our history – about the depth of our commitment to tolerance, respect, inclusiveness, and whether we can do better,” said Governor General David Johnston in his opening remarks.

IMG_7323Leaders of the four churches who ran the Indian Residential Schools share a prayer.

IMG_7322Leaders of the four churches who ran the Indian Residential Schools share a prayer.

IMG_5652From left, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Gérard Pettipas, president of the Corporation of Catholic Entities that signed the Indian Residential School Settlement, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper bow their heads in prayer.

IMG_5695Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said he and the two other commissioners “are convinced that for healing and reconciliation to happen in this country, such work must be done as a high, and, in some cases, urgent priority,” Sinclair said. “And it must be done in partnership.”

 

IMG_5723Tears were shed by some in attendance as a video was played in which residential school survivors spoke of their experiences in the schools.

IMG_5730Tears were shed by some in attendance as a video was played in which residential school survivors spoke of their experiences in the schools.

IMG_7318About 300 people gathered at Rideau Hall, the official home and work place of the governor general, for the ceremony marking the end of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work.

IMG_7338TRC Commissioner Marie Wilson, Governor General David Johnston, Sharon Johnston, TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild and a number of their grandchildren plant paper hearts on Rideau Hall grounds.

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“Notwithstanding the good intent and care of many who worked in the Schools, it is clear that Indian Residential Schools, in policy and in practice, were an assault on Indigenous families, culture, language and spiritual traditions, and that great harm was done,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. He was delivering a joint statement with representatives from the Presbyterian, United and Roman Catholic church, following the release of the summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa June 2. “We continue to acknowledge and regret our part in that legacy,” he said in the statement, delivered before hundreds of people, many of them survivors of Indian Residential Schools. “We know and declare that our apologies are not enough,” he said. “Those harmed were children, vulnerable, far from their families and their communities. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse they suffered is well documented, particularly in the work of the TRC.”

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IMG_5568Most Rev. Gérard Pettipas, C.Ss.R. Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan, and president of the Corporation of Catholic Entities that signed the Indian Residential School Settlement, adds words of support to a joint statement signed by himself and representatives of the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United churches, following the release of the summary report  of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa June 2.

IMG_5376Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, delivers the  summary report findings and call to action of the commission after six years of work.

 IMG_5464Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, fields questions at a news conference following the release of the commission’s summary report. With him are commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson.

sinclairJustice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says “The Prime Minister and the commissioners shared a frank and open dialogue June 2, following the release of the commission’s summary report. Sinclair said in a statement Harper “was open to listening to some of our concerns and inquired about some of our recommendations.” Sinclair also said “I remain concerned with the Government’s resistance to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” as well, “We have offered to meet again with the Prime Minister once he has read the report and we look forward to continuing the conversation.”

IMG_5514 Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt says reconciliation is not going to be an easy journey but that the federal government is committed to continue to work to improve relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. In his talk to hundreds of people, many of them residential school survivors, Valcourt said reconciliation is not to “forgive and forget, but to remember and change.”

IMG_5534Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde urged Canadians to deal with their misconceptions about indigenous peoples and said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology on behalf of Canadians for the residential school system “is an empty, meaningless apology without action.”

IMG_7275All parties involved in the residential school file gave their responses following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s summary report. From left, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who read the joint statement from the Anglican, Presbyterian, United and Roman Catholic churches; Terry Audla, ITK (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) president; Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, head of the Assembly of First Nations; Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt; and Phil Fontaine, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations and a residential school survivor. 

IMG_7263 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was applauded following the release of its summary report and call to action June 2 .

nikamuwin mianscumThree-year-old Nikamuwin Mianscum displays her drumming skills in the hotel lobby where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events were held.

 

IMG_7258It was standing room only for many in the crowded ballroom of an Ottawa hotel  in anticipation of the release of the summary report and call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

IMG_7126Thousands of people took part in the walk for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians  in solidarity with survivors of Indian Residential Schools May 31. The march  comes as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada prepares to release its final report on Tuesday after six years of work that included interviewing more than 7,000 people.

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IMG_7180John Moses passes Parliament Hill holding a photo of his father Russ and aunt Thelma taken at the Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford Ont. in 1943,

IMG_7196The Rev. Susan Johnson, the National Bishop of the Evangelical Church in Canada marches past Parliament Hill in the walk for reconciliation with Dr. Michael J. Pryse, Bishop of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

IMG_5083Justice Murray Sinclair, Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission takes part in the walk for reconciliation.

littlechildTRC Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild welcomed participants in the walk for reconciliation and gave witness to his 14 years as a student in a residential school.

PettipasMost Rev. Gerard Pettipas, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan and Chair of the Corporation of Catholic Entities that signed the Indian Residential School Settlement, participated in the walk for reconciliation that wound its way past Parliament Hill.


IMG_7202Members of the Canadian Religious Conference, which represents the leaders of Catholic religious congregations across Canada, carry the organization’s banner in the walk for reconciliation.

askewMajor the Rev. Catherine Askew – an Aboriginal priest who is a Canadian military chaplain – delivered the sermon at  Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa May 31. At the close of the service at noon, as in churches across the country, the cathedral’s bells were rung as requested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in honour of residential school survivors, and to commit to working towards a reconciled future for all of Canada.

IMG_5009From left, Karen Fleming, Major the Rev. Catherine Askew – an Aboriginal priest who is a Canadian military chaplain – and Willow Vokey perform a drum lament entitled “The Longest Walk,” as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission winds down its six years of work after interviewing over 7,000 people.