“Our links with our aboriginal community are rich and they are deep,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, speaking at a press conference about the seventh Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) National Event to be held in Edmonton March 27 to 30, 2014.
“We are the fastest growing urban aboriginal community in Canada, soon to be the largest, surpassing Winnipeg in the next two years,” Iveson said. Edmonton is home to about 12,000 Indian Residential School survivors.
Along with TRC Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson, Iveson stressed the significance of this event for all Albertans and spoke of the need for both collective and individual efforts to begin the healing process.
“We must work as a nation together to uncover the truths and to offer each other meaningful reconciliation. This will take the commitment of every last one of us, but when achieved will truly make for a stronger Edmonton, stronger Alberta and stronger Canada,” he said.
“Thousands of aboriginal children in Alberta were sent to residential schools in order to be stripped of family ties, language, cultural identity and traditions,” said Chief Littlechild. “This policy has been devastating to aboriginal families and communities, and to relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples. It’s time for a new relationship rooted in respect.”
Commissioner Wilson announced that Wetaskiwin Mayor Bill Elliot will be inducted as a TRC Honorary Witness at the Alberta National Event. A former teacher, Elliott is working to build bridges between his community and nearby Maskwacis, formerly Hobbema. Elliott said he was transformed by the TRC Commission event in Maskwacis last summer.
“I literally sat there and wept listening to stories of abuse,” he said. “As an educator it was extremely difficult to hear what happened in residential schools.”
The term Honorary Witness refers to the ancient spiritual principle of preserving historic moments by bearing witness to them and communicating their truth and importance to others, said Wilson. “From swearing in ceremonies to baptisms and confirmations to weddings and burials, we call people to witness profound moments we cannot forget,” she said.
The TRC Commission was established as a result of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in the 130-year history of the residential schools in Canada, and to guide and inspire a process of reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.