The truth hurts, but it's the first step towards healing and making sure it never happens again.
As the Reconciliation Week of Sept. 16 to 22 winds down, the steps towards healing and rebuilding continue on.
The week of events acknowledged the injustices and harm experienced by many Aboriginals in residential schools, as well as the work Reconciliation Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada does.
Throughout the week there have been events all over the Lower Mainland, many of which the local School District 43 and members of the Kwikwetlem First Nation have been a part of.
"It's great, it's a great event happening this week," said Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht. "We have band members going out there to many events, like the canoeing on
Tuesday, and there's stuff happening all day today (Wednesday)."
Unfortunately, Giesbrecht couldn't take part in the events himself, as he was busy working and couldn't find time.
But School District 43's Trista Fuller, an Aboriginal resource teacher, said she had plenty to do with her students, including participating in the All Nations Canoe Gathering.
"We were out there with district staff, three of our Aboriginal youth leadership students, administrators, and members of Kwikwetlem," she said in an interview with the Tri-Cities NOW. "We paddled a canoe with 60 other canoes around. It went from Vanier Park to Science World."
Also on their canoe was residential school survivor Dean Sam.
Residential schools were government-funded church-run schools to "assimilate Aboriginals" into Canadian society. However, of the more than 150,000 Aboriginal children who attended, many suffered from physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The Government of Canada officially apologized in 2008 for the residential school system.
Having a real-life survivor in front of the students was the exact life lesson her students needed, Fuller said.
"We debriefed it this morning (Wednesday)," Fuller said. "The kids were saying it was something they'll never forget. That it was humbling for them to be around different nations, different dignitaries."
She believes as long as their stories are being told and listened to, then the healing can begin, which is what Reconciliation Week is all about.
"I think we often think that all the atrocities happen somewhere else," she said. "That there were all these dark marks on history, but they weren't our history.
"By telling their stories, we get to understand and appreciate the horrors they suffered. Then we move forward together. Through knowledge we can accomplish that."
Students were also invited on Thursday to attend information sessions about reconciliation, healing, and the residential schools while looking into the future.
"Kind of, 'What do we do now?' questions being asked," she said.
Students in many classes also painted tiles as symbols of remembrance of the survivors of residential schools, and will be handing those out to participants at a four-kilometre walk on Sunday at Queen Elizabeth Plaza in Vancouver, concluding Reconciliation Week.
Fuller and Giesbrecht believe this week isn't just for Aboriginals or those who went through and suffered the residential school system, but for all Canadians.
The weekend will see healing circles, academic panel discussions and more around the Lower Mainland. For more information on these events, visit reconciliationcanada.ca.
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