Finding the Truth for Reconciliation

By Laura Mueller
Peterborough Examiner

December 8, 2008

Trent professor's book studying the deaths of residential school children

A Trent University professor will lead an extensive study to reveal what happened to aboriginal children who died in Canada's residential school system.

John Milloy, who wrote the book "A National Crime" about residential schools, has been tapped to compile extensive lists of the children who died and their gravesites.

"Former Minister (of Indian Affairs and Northern Development) Jim Prentice said if his child had gone missing he'd want to know the answer," Milloy said. "This echoed what survivors were saying and members of communities were saying... There is just a desire in the communities for some sort of closure."

The first part of the research project will take about two years and involve locating gravesites and burial grounds and interviewing survivors to fill in the gaps about who died and where they were buried. The second phase of the study should take about three years and will involve more ambitious research delving into government and private agency documents to determine the policies and procedures of running a residential school and dealing with deaths of students.

The study is important to "fill in the gaps" for the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aims to document the stories of the students and inform Canadians about what happened in the schools in order to promote healing and reconciliation.

"We want to be able to tell as much of the truth as nothing is swept into the corner, and bring everything into the light so we can take a step forward and say that we want a new beginning. We have closed this chapter," Milloy said.

The timeline of the study and the number of researchers the project will involve has not yet been determined. Milloy said he must wait for a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman to be chosen before the study can begin. The former chairman, Justice Harry LaForme, resigned in October. Milloy said the process of choosing a new chairman is to begin in January.


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