Truth and reconciliation commission needed for res-school survivors
The announcement made by the federal government on compensation for residential schools was bittersweet to me. I, and many others, have maintained for a long time that money was not an issue on this matter. Over the last few years, however, I realized that there are many components to the process of healing for these types of crimes and wrongdoings.
First of all, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the damages caused is needed. Along with that, an offer of a sincere apology is needed. The Statement of Reconciliation issued by the federal government January 1998 was just that — a statement, not an offer. A sincere and meaningful offer is still needed, including recognition of the suffering by the parents and families involved.
Secondly, criminal justice needs to be addressed. If you do something unlawful, you have to answer to the criminal courts. No one from the Bernier school was charged, because the NWT Justice Department felt the allegations were “minor in nature.” Since when did sex crimes and acts of terror become considered minor in nature?
Then, counselling programs are needed.
It should be recognized that more than one treatment may be required for some and follow-up is needed. Just because the cost of travel and living up here is so high is not an excuse for exemption. We, in the North, have the same needs as everyone else.
Compensation for damages is also part of the healing process. While no amount of money will make you forget the harm done, it is a token of retribution. Just remember, however, that $10,000 in the South will go a lot further than up here.
While efforts made by the government are to be acknowledged and commended, I feel that we have been short-changed because the differences up here have not been recognized.
Half measures just will not do. It is my hope that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will fully address all of our needs to move forward.
Marius P. Tungilik