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Volunteer recognized for “dedication to survivors”
In an unprecedented move, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission acknowledged a single volunteer for his hard work in making the TRC’s fourth national event a success.
“This is unusual for us and I don’t want you to think this is going to become a regular event but I want to single out an individual for recognition by the commissioners,” said TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair on the last day of the event held in Saskatoon, June 21-24.
Gilles Dorval, Aboriginal relations advisor for the City of Saskatoon, was presented with a vase commissioned by the TRC from Iroquois artist Steven Smith from Sixth Nations First Nation. The framed script which went along with the vase told the story of leadership, healing, kindness, and the journey of good medicine for all Indian residential school survivors.
“I hope… that people will be further along in their journey because of us hosting this event in Saskatoon,” said Dorval.
In acknowledging Dorval, Sinclair said, “He demonstrates a remarkable commitment and dedication to survivors as well. He really believes in you. He really believes in the truth sharing component of our work and he really, really believes in reconciliation. For this we would like to thank him.”
Dorval says when he was approached by Indian Residential School Survivors Advisory Committee member Eugene Arcand to help out, he didn’t hesitate.
“I really thought it was an opportunity for us to provide some knowledge to the non-Aboriginal community on the legacy of social ills that had come about because of the Indian residential school era. And this would be an opportunity for us …to build bridges between our communities for a better future together,” he said, noting that the city has a high Aboriginal population.
The city tapped into its Profile Saskatoon fund and provided $100,000 toward the event. Dorval worked tirelessly to get sponsors on board to help out with the various aspects of the four-day event.
In recognizing Dorval, Sinclair said that Dorval had worked with the TRC’s organizational staff who travelled to the city over a number of months to ensure venues had been selected and accommodations secured.
“He really believes in the truth sharing component of our work and he really, really believes in reconciliation,” said Sinclair.
Dorval, who is Aboriginal, says he has been following the history of residential schools. Schools operated throughout the country for 130 years impacting seven generations. Dorval has seen personally the impact residential schools have had on family and friends.
Close to 29,000 Aboriginals living in Saskatchewan filed for compensation under the Common Experience Payment program. Approximately 15,000 survivors registered for the event.
Dorval thanked residential school survivors for coming forward.
“The pain it must have been for them to share their stories,” he said. “But I really feel we can move forward in a good way.”
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