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Scheduled Ile-a-la-Crosse hearing a firm commitment
Despite a storm that cancelled a scheduled hearing by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at Ile-a-la-Crosse during the TRC’s most recent visit to Saskatchewan, the attempt to conduct a hearing is being seen as a strong commitment on the part of the commission.
Neither the Métis people nor Ile-a-la-Crosse was included in the 2007 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement that created the TRC. However Commission Chair Murray Sinclair holds that for the full picture of the residential school era to be painted, Metis have to be heard.
In the Saskatchewan radio program Meeting Ground, Sinclair said, “Our concern always was to ensure that despite the legal obstacles that the Métis face in terms of being included, that our commission provide as much of an opportunity for their stories to be put on the record as possible and we’re trying to do that.”
The Métis are pushing to add Ile-a-la-Crosse, a residential school operated by the Roman Catholics, and Timber Bay Children’s Home, which housed Aboriginal students who attended the local public school, to the IRSSA’s list of prescribed schools that warrant both common experience payment and independent assessment process payments for survivors.
Metis who attended residential schools that are included on the IRSSA’s approved list are able to apply for compensation.
However, the vast majority of Metis survivors do not qualify.
The TRC’s inclusion of banners and signs with Ile-a-la-Crosse and Timber Bay during this past June’s national event in Saskatoon was a gesture appreciated by Saskatchewan Métis.
“(The TRC) had stated and mentioned in the opening speeches that Ile-a-la-Crosse and Timber Bay should be included in the settlement and that said a lot to me and that says TRC actually recognizes that there is an outstanding issue with Ile-a-la-Crosse and Timber Bay and that … they want to hear the stories of Métis and try to act on it in the best way they can,” said Robert Doucette, president of Métis Nation-Saskatchewan.
Doucette says MNS will continue to push the issue of both Ile-a-la-Crosse and Timber Bay with the federal government as well as the Saskatchewan government, as research has shown that the province had a hand in both institutions.
Sinclair says that pending legal action by the Métis people as well as a feeling of exclusion by the Métis of the process has left Métis both reluctant to tell their stories or to take part in hearings. However, he says, the TRC has always been open to Métis participating in both national and regional events.
“There’s nothing wrong with our people telling their stories because if we don’t tell our stories and let people know what happened to Métis people, then how can we ever get anywhere in terms of a settlement?” said Doucette.
Sinclair holds that excluding the Métis from the settlement makes full reconciliation difficult. He notes that the TRC’s interim report, which was released in February, called for inclusion of both Métis students and day school students in the agreement.
“The question of reconciliation will take a lot longer until there is a process that (the Métis) can engage in. I don’t know that they’re just looking for compensation so much as they’re looking for a recognition that their treatment was the same as others,” Sinclair said.
The TRC was scheduled to hold a hearing in Ile-a-la-Crosse on Sept. 15, but a storm that disrupted power, water, and sewage lines forced the cancellation.
The TRC hosted hearings in North Battleford and on the English River First Nation prior to the failed Ile-a-la-Crosse trip.
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