Preserve residential school testimony
When it comes to preserving history, it can be hard to save what you’d rather forget.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that irst-hand accounts of abuse at residential schools can be destroyed. The unanimous decision states the information was collected in a “con idential and private process,” and that privacy was vital to the undertaking.
I’m disappointed with the decision. And I’m not alone.
Ahead of the ruling, Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said the country’s historical memory was at stake, according to the Globe and Mail. Minister of CrownIndigenous Relations and Northern A airs Carolyn Bennett expressed dissatisfaction that the government did not win control of the material.
The documents will be kept for 15 years, during which time survivors can choose to have their records preserved. If not, they will be destroyed.
Though it takes tremendous courage to do so, I’d like to see them preserved.
I understand there are survivors who don’t want their story out there. And while I support their decision, those stories comprise a long and dark chapter of our history.
The documents — transcripts, audiotapes, application forms — were collected from 38,000 survivors to evaluate settlements following numerous lawsuits, with an agreement between the government and the survivors they would be kept private.
The irst-hand stories are uncomfortable, but they’re not told to comfort; they were told to seek justice.
If they are all destroyed it erases something Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples can learn from.
The e ects from residential schools are still felt in many communities, but it is di icult to truly see them. Many of the buildings still standing have di erent functions. Some have been destroyed. Others want them to be a stark reminder. Last year, the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont. became an educational centre to teach the sad history.
While we have documentaries, books, and ilms about residential schools, there can never be too many.
Preserving these records would add to the body of knowledge.
I hope survivors opt to preserve them Their strength and resiliency won’t go unnoticed — for us, and for future generations.