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This article was published 9/7/2015 (1973 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA – More than two-thirds of Canadians agree with Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Murray Sinclair that the residential schools program in Canada was a cultural genocide, but almost half the country isn’t really paying attention to the issue.
A new poll by Angus Reid Institute found 70 per cent of Canadians agreed with the use of the term.
But Canadians are more divided on what to do about the lasting legacy of the schools on the students who were forced to attend them, and on First Nations as a whole.
The poll was conducted online with 1,511 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. It is considered to be accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent the last six years meeting with thousands of survivors of residential schools to hear their stories and document their experiences in the schools. An executive summary of the final report and 94 recommendations were released at the TRC closing events in Ottawa in June.
Residential schools were run by churches for the federal government for more than a century and more than 150,000 First Nations children attended the schools. Students reported widespread neglect and abuse, and were taught that being First Nations was inferior. They also reported that they were prevented from speaking their language or engaging in any cultural activities such as sun dances or smudging.
About one-third of Canadians said they saw some media coverage of the TRC and had the occasional conversation about it with friends or family, and 17 per cent said they were following it closely.
But a slightly higher number, 18 per cent, said they hadn’t seen anything about it, and 31 per cent said they just scanned the headlines.
According to the poll, about one in every two Canadians think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was beneficial for the country and two-thirds said they were optimistic the TRC will result in a better situation for Canada’s Aboriginal people.
One-third of Canadians want the government to implement most of the recommendations made by the TRC but support for individual recommendations is varied.
Eighty per cent of Canadians think the government should act on two of the main recommendations – to hold a national inquiry on murdered and missing aboriginal women, and to add aboriginal history and the history of residential schools to the standard curriculum in all Canadian schools.
Almost 70 per cent support increasing federal funding for on-reserve education, and an equal number want a national council for reconciliation to oversee progress on reconciliation. Two-thirds of Canadians want funding for aboriginal language preservation and 56 per cent of Canadians back the call for $10 million in funding for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.
The Conservative government has said it is awaiting the TRC’s final report, expected this fall, and will study that document before determining a course of action.
The Liberals and NDP have called for the implementation of all or most of the report. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau this week both told the Assembly of First Nations if they are elected this fall, they would immediately launch a national inquiry, eliminate the funding gap for on-reserve education and invest in aboriginal language preservation.
The entire poll can be found online here.