APTN National News
WINNIPEG–The child welfare system is continuing the work of the Indian residential school system by alienating Indigenous children from their culture, says the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
TRC Chair Murray Sinclair spoke to chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting held in Winnipeg Tuesday. AFN chiefs are meeting to elect a new national chief.
Sinclair delivered an update on the work of the commission, which has been delving into the dark history of residential schools by collecting survivor testimony and historical documents that chronicle the more than century-long existence of the schools.
Sinclair said he saw many similarities between residential schools and the child welfare system in how they have treated Indigenous children.
“The issue of child welfare is an important topic,” said Sinclair. “If you think about it, residential schools were really not about education, they were about taking children away from their family…they were a huge child welfare system and we see the ongoing impact on that role in the child welfare system. The child welfare system is perpetuating the work for residential schools in many ways.”
Sinclair said the commission’s final report, expected to be released by July 1, 2015, will include a section on the child welfare system.
He also mentioned the work of Cindy Blackstock, who heads the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and her human rights complaint against Ottawa.
In the complaint Blackstock alleges the federal government has grossly underfunded First Nation child welfare systems.
Blackstock also spoke to the AFN chiefs.
Sinclair said the TRC’s final report would include a section on genocide. He added that a large section of the report will deal with the issue of reconciliation.
“We want everyone to understand that reconciliation is not just an Aboriginal program,” said Sinclair. “All of Canada needs to accept responsibility for the reconciliation path we are on.”
Sinclair said the final report would discuss those students who were excluded from the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, which gave birth to the TRC. Students who attended day schools or sanitariums were not included in the settlement.
Sinclair said the final report would also be touching on the issues of poverty, the legacy of residential schools and murdered and missing Indigenous women. He said the first two volumes of the report would focus on the history of residential schools.
The TRC plans to celebrate the end of its mandate next year from May 31 to June 3. Sinclair said a walk for reconciliation is planned for Ottawa on May 31.
“We would like you all to be there,” said Sinclair.