Boozhoo miskwaa anaakwaad kwe n’dinzinakaz, wabishshiii dodem.
My name is Stephanie Scott, and I’m the Executive Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. I’m also the daughter of a Residential School Survivor.
I want to join Doctor Wilson in expressing my appreciation for the historic Papal visit and apology.
I have the honour of working with Residential School Survivors every day. They always remind me that there can be no reconciliation without Truth.
We all know that truths of the Residential School system are difficult to hear. They’re difficult to process. And they are difficult to live with.
We also know there has been reluctance for many institutions to acknowledge and take responsibility for their part in this terrible history. But it must be done.
There are many Survivors here today. But we are very conscious of those who are not present. Those Survivors who still find this conversation too hard, too triggering. And those who did not Survive. Because we must never forget the thousands of children that never came home.
In 2019, the NCTR created a National Student Memorial Cloth to honour the children who died in residential schools. The cloth was directed through spiritual ceremony because Survivors, Elders and Knowledge Keepers recognized that honouring these children is a sacred responsibility.
Survivors wanted to bring the memorial cloth here today so that His Holiness could witness the sacred commemoration of the young lives that were taken from us.
Having the memorial cloth at this event was not easily done. There was reluctance from the Vatican, specifically around what it might say about this history we are acknowledging. We have the memorial cloth here today only because Survivors demanded that the children must be honoured.
For me and for many Survivors and Inter-generational Survivors this will forever be part of the context in which we view the Papal apology.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was born from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We are the permanent stewards of 7000 statements, millions of records and sacred items gifted to the Commission. We continue the work of the TRC to find all of our children.
Recently, we have developed a positive working relationship with Catholic Church and some of its institutions in Canada. The Oblate Order, which ran the majority of Catholic Residential Schools, has given access to records that were never released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NCTR’s head archivist was recently able to visit the Oblate Archive in Rome to begin a process of identifying residential school records that may not be held in Canada.
These are important parts of the foundational work of ongoing truth-telling.
In fact, we are about to start a new process of statement gathering to better reflect the voices of those Survivors who were not able to share their stories during the period of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but who wish to do so now.
It’s also important to acknowledge that the Residential schools were one of many institutions where our children suffered abuse. The Survivors of boarding schools and day schools also have important truths to share.
When Indigenous delegates visited Rome earlier this year, His Holiness was gifted a copy of the Survivors Flag. This is a flag created by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Survivors to fly on Parliament Hill. The flag is a powerful statement of the Survivors’ determination to tell the truth of Canada’s history. It is also an expression of continued strength and resilience of our Indigenous cultures.
The Survivors tell us the intent and function of the residential schools was to destroy our peoples.
They did not succeed.
Our Elders and Knowledge Keepers have kept our languages and our sacred teachings alive. And the Survivors have shared a vision for the future in which our cultures can once again thrive. That is the message of the Survivors Flag.
The Survivors have invited all Canadians to join them in flying the flag as symbol of the journey we are on together. Today, I share that invitation with all of you to consider as one of many actions that you each take on the journey of reconciliation.