NCTR receives feedback on IRSSA from Sioux Lookout guests, residents
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) visited the Sioux Lookout Legion on Nov. 26 to hear from residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors as part of their Lessons Learned from the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) project.
The NCTR is visiting seven communities across Canada, with Sioux Lookout being one of them, to learn about survivors’ experiences, the successes and the challenges of the IRSSA.
NCTR research coordinator Kaila Johnston said Sioux Lookout was chosen as one of the destinations for these one-day engagements due to the areas’ ties with residential schools but also thanks to local connections as well.
“Sioux Lookout was considered mainly because of the location. It’s right around an area that was highly concentrated with residential schools…but we also have connections through Garnet Angeconeb. It was suggested that we had never been to Sioux Lookout before, so we should come visit the folks here,” said Johnston.
Sioux Lookout resident Garnet Angeconeb, a Lac Seul First Nation band member and a Pelican Indian Residential School survivor, shared that he mentioned Sioux Lookout during a meeting in the spring with the NCTR when he first found out they were conducting this project.
“Back in May, I went to the NCTR in Manitoba and I made contact with Ry Moran who is the director there. In that meeting I had with him, he talked about how the centre was going to be doing a community review of the Indian Residential School Settlement, and he indicated that they were going to a number of communities across the country. At that point I said to him, ‘Don’t forget about us in Sioux Lookout.’,” he said.
“Next thing you know, they’re heading to Sioux Lookout… I was pleased that they selected Sioux Lookout because there are a lot of survivors here that have a number of concerns about the IRSSA in general, so I thought it was a good opportunity for former students (of Residential Schools) to come in and make their concerns known about the settlement agreement,” Angeconeb continued.
The NCTR emphasized that the focus of the project, and engagement dialogue, isn’t to re-open, assess, or resolve individual claims under the Settlement Agreement, but it’s to learn first-hand about how the IRSSA affected survivors and intergenerational survivors and how they can improve any future settlement agreements.
“These are one-day engagements with the focus mainly being letting the survivors or participants have that opportunity to share as much as they wanted. The morning portions is introductions and we go over who we are, what we’re doing here, we break down what the project is, what’s going to happen with the project, and then moving right in to the conversations and opening it up to the participants to share. The remainder of the day from there is sharing, so the length of the day really depends on how much people want to share and how many people there are in attendance but, typically, we go right up to 4 o’clock,” said Johnston.
“We have a set of questions and they’re really to get people thinking about their experience on the residential school settlement agreement. The questions ask what worked, what didn’t work, what could’ve been done better, and how did it affect them and their families. It’s really a jumping off point to get them thinking about how did the settlement affect them and what could we have done differently for future settlement agreements coming down the pipeline to prevent similar mistakes from reoccurring. We also want to give people the opportunity to voice their experiences because it may be known in their communities, but the general Canadian public at-large may not know how the survivors were actually affected by that settlement agreement,” she continued.
Sioux Lookout was the fifth stop across Canada with following visits to Montreal, Quebec on Dec. 3 and Eskasoni, Novia Scotia on Dec. 6, which wraps up the tour. So far, Johnston said they’re hearing comparable responses from participants, who seem to be very concerned for future generations.
“We’re hearing very similar feedback, mainly being a lot of survivors are thinking about their children and grandchildren, in particular with how the settlement agreement did not touch on inter-generational survivors. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation that was closed in 2014, a lot of them weren’t at that point in their healing journey to reach out for counselling support or other supports and, since it’s no longer around, they’re kind of scrambling to find those supports… One of the big takeaways is more healing centres, more treatment centres, and looking at the current conditions and challenges that communities are facing,” she explained.
The NCTR website shares that, once the project is done, the information collected will be used in a report, which can be a resource for future settlement agreements.
Their website (www. education.nctr.ca) reads, “Material collected during this project may be used to inform the development of future settlement agreements, inform ongoing work on Reconciliation in Canada and beyond, and inform the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action. Information collected during the engagements will be compiled into a narrative report that will be released in March 2019.”
Angeconeb, who attended and presented at the engagement, said he was happy with the discussions, but he hopes to see the settlement agreement reviewed at a higher level.
“I really feel that the dialogue was good… it gave a good opportunity for survivors to talk freely and directly about the shortcomings of the agreement. I hope that this consultation will lead to the government and others to consider lessons learned from this process for future resolutions. I acknowledge the NCTR and their effort to talk to survivors in reviewing the settlement agreement, but I still maintain that there has to be an evaluation at another level. The IRSSA was negotiated and designed by lawyers and, because of that, there has to be an independent legal review of the settlement agreement because that’s also where lessons could be learned,” he concluded.
For more information on the project, check the NCTR website at www.education.nctr.ca/lessons-learned-from-irssa.