Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report
On September 30, 2021, Canada’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we began a public reading of the Executive Summary of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Following the opening of the reading on September 30th, we met weekly on Zoom for two hours every Monday, and read the report out loud.
On Monday 20th December, 2021, we finally completed the reading, with the “Calls to Action”. The reading took place on Zoom, with an open invitation to all to take part in the reading. There was also an open invitation to come just to listen.
- Information about the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (Government of Canada)
- Executive summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report
- An outline of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Wikipedia
About the Residential School System
The term “residential schools” refers to an extensive school system set up by the Canadian government, and administered by churches, that had the nominal objective of educating Indigenous children, but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream white Canadian society.
The residential school system officially operated from the 1880s into the closing decades of the 20th century. The system forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and forbade them to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Children were severely punished if these, among other, strict rules were broken.
Former students of residential schools have spoken of horrendous abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological. Residential schools provided Indigenous students with inappropriate education, often only up to lower grades, that focused mainly on prayer and manual labour in agriculture, light industry such as woodworking, and domestic work such as laundry work and sewing.
Residential schools systematically undermined Indigenous, First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures across Canada and disrupted families for generations, severing the ties through which Indigenous culture is taught and sustained, and contributing to a general loss of language and culture.
Because they were removed from their families, many students grew up without experiencing a nurturing family life and without the knowledge and skills to raise their own families. The devastating effects of the residential schools are far-reaching and continue to have a significant impact on Indigenous communities. The residential school system is widely considered a form of genocide because of the purposeful attempt from the government and church to eradicate all aspects of Indigenous cultures and life-worlds. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was launched in 2008 to guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, and to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.
About the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was officially launched in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Intended to be a process that would guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, the TRC was also meant to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report is a testament to the courage of each and every survivor and family member who shared their story.
As an important step in rebuilding Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Prime Minister of Canada met with leaders of the National Indigenous Organizations on December 16, 2015, in Ottawa to continue the dialogue on reconciliation. At that meeting, the Prime Minister committed to National Indigenous Organizations that he would meet with them annually in order to sustain and advance progress on shared priorities.
Why read the TRC Executive Summary online?
In our mission to connect and foster dialogue between people in Ireland and Canada, we invite not only white/non-Indigenous/settler Canadians to read the TRC, but Irish people to read it also.
For white/non-Indigenous/settler Canadians, reading the report is a responsibility as we endeavour to move forward in a process of truth and reconciliation.
For Irish people, reading the report will be in solidarity and support – for the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and also for the aspirations of this document produced on the behalf of all the people of Canada.
While the weight or responsibility is on others to read this document, we would greatly welcome participation of Indigenous people in reading this reading of the report.
Participants and readers
September 30th, 2021:
- Opening words and prayer: Joseph Naytowhow & Cheryl L’Hirondelle
- Welcome: James Kelly
- Remarks of support: Eamonn McKee, Ambassador of Ireland to Canada
- Remarks of support: Nancy Smyth, Ambassador of Canada to Ireland
- Closing reflection: Louise Halfe – Sky Dancer, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate
Readers (in order of participation):
- Dr. Paul Halferty
- Prof. Renée Hulan
- Dr. Niall Majury
- Mary Harney
- Jane Fairburn
- Patrick Nickleson
- Ingrid Mary Percy
- Frank Flood, Consul General of Ireland in Vancouver
- Kathleen Stokes
- Nelly Desrosiers
- Smaro Kamboureli
- Cheryl L’Hirondelle
- Brenda Rawn Jordan
- Desmond Green
- Katerina Garcia
- Diane Charles
- Edith Koprek
- Joseph Naytowhow
- Anne Murphy
- Caroline Coyle
- James Kelly
- Ricki Schoen
- Moira Day
- Brennan Richardson
- Katharine EE Hunt
- Bláithín O’Donnell
- David McAtackney
- Jeannine Woods
- John J. Kelly
- Aoife Mac Namara
- Mary Lawlor
- Deirdre Mulrooney
- Candace Savage
- Helen Awhinawhi
- Michael Kelly
- Dervila Cooke
- Suzie O’Shea
- Eimear O’Neill
- Sinéad Woods
- Manchán Magan
- Raghavendra Rao K.V.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in the reading of this document, please find below information on organisations in Canada and Ireland that may be able to assist you.
- 24-hour crisis line for residential school survivors: 1 (866) 925-4419
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness, 24/7 Help Line: 1 (855) 242-3310
- The Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll free line: 1 (800) 721-0066
- Alberta: 1 (888) 495-6588
- British Columbia: 1 (877) 477-0775
- Territories: 1 (800) 464-8106
- Manitoba: 1 (866) 818-3505
- Saskatchewan: 1 (866) 250-1529
- Ontario: 1 (888) 301-6426
- Quebec: 1 (877) 583-2965
- Atlantic Provinces: 1 (866) 414-8111
- Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
- Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266
- Samaritans: Freephone 116 123 (callers from Rep of Ireland & N Ireland), email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rep. of Ire) email@example.com (N Ire), web: samaritans.org,
- Text 50808 (HSE): Text 3TS to 50808 to start a conversation; available every day 24 hours a day; standard message rates apply.
- Pieta: Suicide support service – free helpline and face-to-face counselling support, helpline (24hr): 1800 247 247, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: pieta.ie
- Aware: depression and bipolar disorder support. Web: www.aware.ie, Tel: Freephone 1800 80 48 48 (available 7 days, 10am-10pm), Email: email@example.com