Establishing a National Centre to forever preserve the truths of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools was one of the most important responsibilities given to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). As part of the TRC’s legal mandate, this responsibility is spelled out in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, signed in 2007 by representatives of Survivors, Aboriginal groups, the federal government and the churches.
In order to carry out this part of our mandate, we convened an international gathering of experts on Aboriginal community control, and on national and international principles, protocols and best practices for Indigenous and human rights archiving. Later, we called for submissions from organizations wishing to host the National Centre. On June 21, 2012, it was our honour to announce that the National Centre would be hosted by the University of Manitoba in cooperation with a wide network of partners across Canada.
In the words of the Settlement Agreement, the TRC was established out of a “compelling desire to put the events of the past behind us so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future.”
In order to do this, the TRC worked tirelessly to discover exactly what it was that former students of the Residential Schools and all Canadians need to leave behind.
The answers are contained in nearly 7,000 video statements of Survivors and intergenerational Survivors of the schools, and in the millions of documents from government and churches that attest to their experience. These will form the core of the NCTR archive, accessible to all Canadians for all time.
Survivors told us they need to leave behind the shame and hurt caused by the assault on their languages, cultures, spirituality, traditions, families and communities. Intergenerational Survivors told us they need to leave behind the confusion and dysfunction they so often inherited. Non-Aboriginal Canadians told us they needed to leave behind their ignorance of the Residential School history and legacy – ignorance that fuels racism and restricts Canada’s potential.
Ironically, putting the past behind us means preserving it with purpose and dedication – so we can remember the lessons it teaches as we move forward.
As TRC Commissioners, we are deeply grateful to all those who contributed statements and documents to the TRC, to the university, and to all those individuals and groups who will contribute to the remarkable and enduring Indigenous archive.
Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair
Dr. Marie Wilson
Chief Wilton Littlechild