National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Archive launched

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It took a student to ask the question, “Why would they do that to people?”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/11/2015 (2583 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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It took a student to ask the question, “Why would they do that to people?”

A daylong teach-in for hundreds of Manitoba school kids and teachers on truth, reconciliation and residential schools rolled out Wednesday at the RBC Convention Centre.

As part of the opening for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the day was part pep rally and part workshop, and marked the second day of an extraordinary opening for the centre and a database that went public.

Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press Olympian Clara Hughes urged students to stand up for the truth of residential schools, and commit positive acts of reconciliation at the RBC Convention Centre today.

“I think this event is good opportunity for students and teachers who don’t have any background to start learning about residential schools,” Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute teacher Leigh Brown said as an afternoon panel played out on a giant stage.

“That’s the whole point of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — it’s to share knowledge, to go home and talk about all the information, all the stories,” added Rina Bright, an aboriginal student coach at St. John’s High School.

“It’s kind of like, unbelievable. Why would they do that to people?” asked Grade 9 student Alison Rowe, from the town of Birch River in western Manitoba, about residential schools.

Residential schools were the focus of the largest court settlement of its kind in the country’s history and led to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada’s churches have apologized publicly for their role. Former prime minister Stephen Harper issued a public apology on behalf of the country. Some 150,000 indigenous Canadians were forced to attend the schools that ran from the 1800s until the last school closed in 1996.

If Tuesday was the time for a ceremony where dignitaries paid respect to the fact the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba now houses the repository of records and testimony about residential schools, Wednesday was about acting on it.

The centre wasted little time getting to work on the business of educating Canada about the dark chapter in assimilation and a brighter, shared future.

Some 1,700 school kids and 350 teachers were assembled at the convention centre to start the process of reconciliation.

Students and teachers from 35 public schools and half a dozen private, independent schools attended, along with students from half a dozen First Nations schools.

Former Olympian Clara Hughes urged students to stand up for the truth of residential schools and commit positive acts of reconciliation. “We’re asking you to imagine a brighter future for this country,” Hughes said.

Hughes introduced herself as a TRC honorary witness, a public-speaking role to talk about residential schools and reconciliation as a national process.

“I became an honorary witness to retell the stories that I’ve heard, to share with Canadians who don’t know what our true history is. I’m here to encourage all of you here today, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to learn clearly what has happened, to learn about things that should never have been done… to tell people the truth,” Hughes said.

She issued the challenge in the form of a national essay and art competition, called Imagine a Canada. On March 1, 2016, students with the top 10 entries will attend a special ceremony at Rideau Hall hosted by the Governor General.

The centrepiece Wednesday for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was the launch of new national centre’s online website, a portal into the country’s failed assimilation of indigenous people and the effects it has had on generations of families.

The centre’s online database went live at 2 p.m. with the release of tens of thousands of documents, from an interactive map of residential schools in Canada to individual school records and testimonies before commission hearings from coast to coast.

The event, months in planning, took the combined effort of mainstream, government and indigenous sectors mainly in Manitoba, including the Manitoba Teachers Society, the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents, the province, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and City of Winnipeg officials.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 3:18 PM CST: Adds video

Updated on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 3:23 PM CST: Links added, byline fixed.

Updated on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 8:26 PM CST: writethrough

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