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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Truth & Reconciliation: Thursday, October 27

Transcript of Tim Bousquet's Twitter feed

Posted By on Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 8:53 PM

WARNING: this transcript contains graphic descriptions of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Editor's note: The following is from Tim Bousquet's Twitter live-blogging of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Atlantic Event, held in Halifax last week. Bousquet has been using Twitter to live-blog many governmental meetings, and we've seen the 140-character-burst format works well for a quick snapshot of what is going on in real time, but has its limitations in terms of giving depth, context and complete coverage. Bousquet did not attend all the sessions, likely missed important details and his tweeting was on the fly. No doubt he misspelled some names (please let me know in the comments below) and let slip typos. Still, much interest was expressed in the tweets, so we've collected them all here for archival purposes. Find Bousquet's commentary on the TRC here.

Thursday, October 27

OK., I broke down and paid TCL's $11.50 per day internet charge, because it's important to live blog the Trutch & Reconciliation event

I"ll have recordings and pictures on website later. This is a very moving experience, hearing witnesses testify..


Now up, Ruth Maloney Loft, was at Shubanacie school. "I suffered many years in silence, but I chose not to do that anymore."

"What happened in that residential school... I was just 5 years old, when I first stepped foot in that school"

"I had feelings, but I learned to bury them in order to survive; I would've gone crazy.... I shut off all my emotions for 7 years."

"I was a innocent little Mi'kmaq girl, separated from my family for seven years..."

Went 7 years without hearing her parents say "I love you" or being hugged.

"I lived in fear in that school" and for the fear could not learn.

"I had feelings, but I learned to bury them in order to survive; I would've gone crazy.... I shut off all my emotions for 7 years."

Was in the school with her 2 sisters, but she never saw them because families were separated.

"We were only 5 miles away from my home, & we were not allowed to go home for Xmas, for Easter... my mom & dad were not allowed to visit"

She was incapable of showing or receiving love. "If anyone tried to hug me, I would freeze up."

Could not play or have fun. "All I knew was rules and regulations, and the belt."

"You'd think with all the church they forced on us...but I never knew anyone who went to residential school & become a nun."[laughter]

"I felt deserted, abandoned, and forgotten as a little girl... I suffered at the hands of those nuns... they took total control of me."

"For many years I did not know who I was. after many years I slowly transformed myself through speaking out and rising above"

"I am still here, my people are still here, singing and dancing, celebrating life to the fullest" [applause]

She receives a standing ovation. Many people are crying. Committee takes lunch break... more testimony at 3:30, other events before. [more]

Before I started live-blogging, there was another native woman who attended the school. I'm trying to load her recording now.

There was also an Anglican priest, who gave testimony and an apology.


David Banard, University of Manitoba now to speak. Survivors Gary Robson & Doris Young, and Phil Fontaine as well.

Banard: the U of M wants to expose the shame of the residential school system.

Banard: it's important to research the schools, and to tell our own story.

Banard: our university was complicit... we are sorry [chokes back tears]

17 residential schools operated in Manitoba, the last one closed in 1998.

Banard: Education and religion became tools of assimilation, and therefore tools of oppression.

Banard: the UofM educated and assisted people who carried out these horrid practices.

Banard: also, forced adoptions in the "60s scoop" when aboriginal people were forced to give up their children.

Banard: "We apologize to our students. They are survivors.. we apologize to our indigneous faculty & staff... to elders...."

Banard's apologies are sincere. He's stopping often, wiping away tears.

Banard now cites native poet, who attended Shubanacadie.

Banard gets standing ovation.


Justice Sinclair: this gesture from the UofM is one of the most important we've received.

Sinclair: Native children were taught to think they were inferior; in the same way, white children were also taught natives were inferior.

Sinclair: this is why we have such a hard time moving forward: "racism"

Sinclair: the educational system was the problem, so it has to be part of the solution. It matters what we tell all children about natives.

Sinclair: it's not enough to teach youngsters correctly, it has to also be stressed at universities.

SInclair: some of the people who tell natives to "get over it" are the same people who say "we must never forget 911"

Moderator: one result of the adverse relationship between native peoples and others is a disparity of life condition.

1o f 3 women in prison is aboriginal.

Aboriginal people live with high poverty rates, high crime rates, etc... "this is the legacy of residential schools"

"Closing the gap [of living conditions] is not just a native issue, it's an issue of Canadian identity."

We now have a "circle of reconciliation."

Archbishop Macinni is here too, along with about a 15 others, some mentioned earlier.


Lotty Johnston, res school survivor: first time I was asked to speak, I said yes. "I'm #47," then I cried for two days...

Johnston: I went to school at age 10 & every 10 years I had an emotional breakdown. I was in my 50s before I realized it was an anniversary

Johnston: in Shubanacadie, when we went home, we called it "Freedom Day"-- some never got to go home, however.

"We weren't taught about natives, but if we were [pauses] we weren't called natives; we talked about savages."


Sue Moxley, Anglican bishop for PEI and NS, now speaking.

Moxley: we used to think of reconciliation as repairing relationships, but what if there is no relationship, or it's a wrong relationship?

Moxley: a relationship has to start from truth.

Moxley: "the truth of the situation is that the church that I love has a great big blot on its history."

Moxley relates native "blanket ceremony," which recalls smallpox blankets.

Moxley: native people in Anglican church have demanded self-determination in the church. Anglicans had to change how they do things.


Now up, an Inuit woman, who hasn't given her name, at least not in English. I'll refer to her as IW.

IW: one research group wanted to study diabetes, but the community changed the research to examine traditional diets and climate change.

The study found that because of climate change, the nutritional value of seal and polar bear has changed.

IW: when my mother moved from winter to spring camp, walking next to dog, she stopped only to give birth, then kept walking...


Now up, Bill FLowers. Here's a 10-minute audio clip of survivor Iris Nicolas:… (above date line)

Flowers: there's an irony in seeking reconciliation with powers that have taken our land.

Flowers: the national apology did not extend to the people of Labrador.

Flowers gives a shout out to the Occupy movement.

Here's that audio clip:…

Flowers speaks at length about the plight of the Labrador people, who apparently also went to residential-like schools. I'm ignorant of this


Now up, Tony Mancini, Catholic archbishop of Halifax. "I am being educated today."

Mancini: as archbiship I have inherited a black mark... I have a long, long way to go before I can understand your hurt.

Mancini: "Unfortunately, some of us [Catholics], sometimes along the line, forgot why we were here."


Now up: Ian Grey, a federal government rep from department of Indian affairs (I think)

Grey: We have treaties of peace and friendship in Nova Scotia, not land treaties. "Treaty Day" is in October.


Now up, Morley Googoo, vice chief of national assembly. Speaks at lenght in, er, Mi'kmaq, maybe? Now to English.

Googoo: "an apology must be accompanied by actions that reflect the spirit of the apology."

Googoo: reconciliation will require significant change in the relationship between native people and the government of Canada.

Googoo: "education, which was once used to destroy our culture, is now a tool to empower us."

Wow: Googoo's father died at age 31, and saved him at the same time, in a carnival ride accident.

Googoo: we have to regain our culture, what is beautiful, which we were told was not beautiful.


Sister Donna, of the sisters of charity, now up.

A bit of editorial here, but Sister Donna is kinda missing the point, I think...

Sister Donna: "Jesus tells us to be one..." and so forth... reading a prepared statement about role of church.

Sister Donna: "The first step is to acknowledge the importance of a spiritual basis..."

Well, at least Sister Donna is getting around to clean water and such.

Sister Donna: What are we doing? We're working on a settlement of claims. [Sisters of Charity operated Shubenacadie school]

Sister Donna: residential school "seemed like a good thing to do" at the time. But "it was part of a system that was racist & oppressive"


Now up, survivor Margaret Ward: "for the child taken, and the parent left behind, how do you reconcile?"


Now up, a native woman who hasn't identified her self: "We'll keep telling the truth until you all get it."

NW: "The reconciliation has to come from the government and the churches... I don't see any action."

NW: I'm not sure the apology really mattered, because I don't see anything else happening.

NW: "When I heard that apology from Mr. Harper, I felt that it wasn't sincere.... he needs to sit down with us..." [applause]


Now up, survivor Margaret Ward: "for the child taken, and the parent left behind, how do you reconcile?"

Ward: I was taken at age 10, sent on train to Shubanacadie... this was the same school my mother told me about..

Later, "I asked her why she sent me there, when she knew about the abuse. She said she had to, had no choice."

Ward struggles to speak, stopping to hold back tears.

Ward: "Reconciliation will happen to me, when I see my children studying their culture, studying their language."


Moderator: "when reconciliation is achieved, it will make a better, stronger Canada."

There's a short break before more testimony from survivors.

The organizers have placed hundreds of tissue boxes around the room, which serving their purpose.

There are also a couple of dozen mental health professionals walking around the room, helping people.

I was surprised at Tuesday's media briefing: Yea, we know you're all dispassionate reporters, but we have counsellors available for you, too


I've moved over to another room for a "sharing circle." I'm kind of navigating this blind, but will figure it out.

They collect all the thousands of crying tissues, to be thrown later in the sacred fire.

I'll probably miss some names here. about a dozen folk in circle.

An elder is going around with a smoking bowl, and all the circle participants are waving the smoke on themselves.

My sense is that these participants have never spoken publicly about their experiences before.


Now up: Michael Chenah, from James Bay, now in Toronto. Spent 8 years in a residential school. "It's hard to talk about."

Chenah: I'm a recovering alcoholic. I drank because of what happened to me in school. I've been sober for 21 years.

Chenah now works with addicts and homeless people as a counsellor in Toronto.

Chenah was taken to residential school in 1958, at age 7, in Moose Factory. Was there 8 years.

Chenah: we were told not to talk our language. It was an Anglican school. We played hockey, lacrosse, football, baseball.

"We were physically abused by staff for breaking the rules, or throwing snowballs. If someone wet their bed, they would be beaten by staff.

Chenah: I never wet my bed, but I was beaten. I threw a piece of bread at another student-- I was beaten.

Chenah: "sometimes I'll get triggered, if I go to a church or a hospital, by flashbacks."

Chenah: "it's kind of hard to talk about... I was never sexually abused; I was physically abused."

Chenah: I left the school in 1968 to go to high school. in res school, I went to army cadets, but I had difficulty learning.

Chenah: After high school, I joined the army, as a gunner. When I got out, I drank a lot, I couldn't keep a job. Tried to finish high school

Chenah: I couldn't finish high school, but now, I'm just turned 60 years old, and I'm thinking of going to university.


Now up, Carol, who went to Shubie for 5 years. "I thought it was nice, when I got there, but I found out it wasn't so nice."

Carol: one of my sisters was sick, throwing up. The nuns made us watch her vomit. I've never seen so much violence as I saw there.


Now, Sarah Macdonald, who is Carol's sister: "We were all sexually abused by the priests and the nuns."

Sarah: I was sexually abused, and so was my sister beside me, and my younger sister.

Sarah: I drank a lot. I got into fights.... I was in my mother's arms, crying, when I was taken away...

Sarah: now I have a college degree. When I got out of school, I didn't remember my mother. I started drinking a lot.

Sarah: my daughter died. My son died when he was 14.

Sarah: I watched my sisters being beaten by belts. I have scars [points to them] they told us the more pain we had, the closer to heaven.

Sarah: So many things happened, I can't say. I did awful things people don't know.. mental hospital, overdosed.

Sarah: we sisters couldn't talk to each other for 30 years after leaving school, we were so ashamed.


Now up, Solonius Ernie. "I'm not a survivor. I didn't survive. What you see is what's left."

Ernie, refers to himself in 3rd person, because it's easier: he was subjected to physical, sexual, spiritual abuse.

Ernie: I had a urine-soaked sheet put over my head. The "pee parade" for people who peed their bed.

Ernie: I was sick, fainted. I was sponged bath, to lower my temperature; however, she took liberties, I was 7 years old.

Ernie: I pushed her hand away, she said you wait. She called over big boys, and they held me why she beat me. I still have the scars.

Ernie: His family left for the US when he was in school, he came back to no family. "Some elders in the community saved me."

Ernie: I always believed I spent 9 months there... until I started researching for compensation.. I was there for 2 years. I had blacked out

Ernie: I have been alone, because of my behaviours. I've lost my family. I lost so much.

Ernie: "to tell you that a day has gone by where I have not contemplated suicide, I would lie to you."

Ernie: I've failed in everything. I've never achieved anything. I did 3 years in the US army, was kicked out. I was married, couldn't..

Ernie: anything that involves an authority, I've failed, but going against authority, I've done well.

Ernie: being involved in native resistance, "I've succeeded" recounts many battles.

Ernie: we natives, wouldn't have survived the assault of the Europeans, if we didn't have our sense of humour.

Ernie: one nun, would take me, and force my head in her groin area, then give me candy.

Ernie: my brother said, "she wants to kiss her privates" I said, really?

He said, she used to give me blow jobs. How did you make her stop? "I pissed in her mouth," he said. I was never able to piss in her mouth.

Ernie: "But my story is no different from anyone else, so I have no reason to feel sorry for myself."

I don't think there's a dry eye in the room...


Now up, Elizabeth Sucoby: my friends call me Elizabeth, that's why everyone calls me Liz--- I have no friends.

Sucoby was in Shubie. "My sister used to pee bed & I would watch her get beat. Then one night I peed the bed too & got a really bad beating

Sucoby: I was force fed with spinach. Every time I threw it up, they forced it back in my mouth. I can't eat spinach today.

Sucoby: I became an alcoholic. I stopped drinking in 1990. 3 months later, my daughter said I should start drinking again. Why? [more]

Sucoby: I was nicer because I gave her money so she would go to the store and leave me alone.

Sucoby: The Catholic church kept me alive, because they taught me if I commit suicide I'd go to hell.

Sucoby: I've found a loving god, not a church god. He has forgiven me, because I've done no wrong.

Sucoby: Every residential school survivor is strong & brave. I used to be ashamed.. no more.


Now up, a man next to her: "This [Sucoby] is my sister, and I've never heard her story before."

Man: When I go to the school, I was crying. A nun gave me a candy. They washed us down, put us in a bathtub.

Man: somebody put me under [the water], I couldn't breath...I made a promise to myself: I would never allow someone have control over me

Man: I wet my bed, every day. Six years old, I was strapped, every day. I learned to observe, I learned to be manipulative. I didn't trust.

Man: I learned crazy mental games in residential school. I could not love. I went through 3 marriages.

Man: I went to commit suicide in 1968, but the water was too cold. Or maybe I didn't have the balls. I was an alcoholic, went to detox.

The mental hospital looked exactly like the residential school.

Man: was in and out of mental hospitals and detox since 88, until 3 months ago. I just didn't know why the hell I was drinking so much.

Man: I had 2 counsellors, one took off with my girlfriend, one took off with my wife.

Man: like a dummy, I went back. They asked me, what are you thinking about? Residential school. They thought they were going to cure me.

[I can't adequately tweet what he's saying. It's compelling, but non-linear and longer than tweets will allow]

Man: in my journey of recover, I worked on me. Why the hell did I drink? Because I'd black out.

Man: When I drink, I don't have time to talk to you in a bar. I want to get numb in 20 minutes.

Man: I'll start off with vodka, end up with Listerine.

Man: we were held prisoner for a number of years, but yes I am a Mi'kmaq person, and I will die proud.


Now up, I think "rain mountain" but might have that wrong.

Rain: I experienced horrid things at the hands of our godservants, heh. And the federal government.

Rain: Thinking about my story, I didn't want to cause grief, I wanted to make us happy, but I kept remembering all those who have died.

Rain: and all those who refuse to tell their stories, because, they say, there is the devil, and he will come to you, even as a friend.

Rain: I don't know how to tell you it's all going to be OK, because it's not.

Rain: How can I tell my child this won't happen to you, when I know it will.

Rain: Our residential school is still around, but it's so out in the open we don't even see it.

Rain: My borther Albert died. He was petrified of the demon, if he told his story.

Rain: [tells a remarkable story of medical malpractice] How can this happen? I'm a native.

Rain: they told me I had the right to sue, but I don't believe in suing.

Rain: it's still out there, it's not going to go away, because it's trickled down to them. It's corrupted them among theirselves.

Rain: This world is corrupt. This whole world is corrupt. We're in hell together, let's make the best of it.

Rain: It's scary. Life is scary. And if we gotta deal with the spirit world, how the heck are we going to deal with the world right here?

Rain sings a song about her residential school experience.

One line of the song: "When god's servant came to my bed, you'll be safe in my arms he said."

Rain: in the recreation, they had mickey mouse, wonderful toys... a couple of days after the parents came around, it was all gone.

Rain: I was beaten unbelievably.


Now up, Jan MacDonald. Was in Shubie for four years.

MacDonald: I had to go to Shubie; my mother had to obey the Indian agent. My brother was there.

MacDonald: The nuns & priests gave me hardship. I was forced to eat food I didn't like, I'd get sick, and it wasn't very nice afterwards.

MacDonald: I hate liver to this day. I lied to my children, I told them I went to private school. Until a few years ago, the truth came out.

MacDonald: I had to sit down & write everything I remembered. When I wrote about the physical abuse, the pain...

MacDonald: [cries, is handed a tissue] these are human tears, I don't wipe them away.

MacDonald: I got beatings for no reason. They had a pointer, a wire pointer.. you all must remember that...

MacDonald: I was only six. I bled. I was sitting there bleeding, she did nothing. No one did anything about the cut.

MacDonald: I took sick, ended up in the infirmary. I hated that nursing nun. woke up, I had red spots, they called me measles bum.

MacDOnald: other times, we had to be examined, and that nun threw me on my stomach, held me down, pushed something up my behind...

"And then I felt this needle on my back, a still have the scar... I asked a doctor recently, he said I don't know...

MacDonald: The doctor said it could've been an identifying mark in case you tried to run away.

MacDonald: I saw my brother outside, and waved at him. The nun saw me and took me inside for a beating.

MacDonald: I'm glad this day is here. I've waited a long time.

MacDonald: I survived for a reason. I'm a writer, and I wrote a play about this.


Now up, Margaret Tharabell. was one of six siblings taken to a James Bay residential school.

Tharabell: a nun kept warning me to stop saying hello and waving to my brothers...she dressed up my bother as a girl, to make fun of him.

Tharabell: she kept pushing me into the boys room, my brother kept looking at me with hatred, I could see it in his eyes.

Tharabell: she shoved me in the broom closet, got another nun. She got the strap, 40 times & made me count each, told me not to cry.

Tharabell: I tried to hide it from my sisters, because I didn't want to tell them what had been done with me.

Tharabell: my younger brother called my name, I forgot and waved. The nun saw it again. They took me to the chapel, put a bag over my face.

Tharabell: Finally this huge guy, he grabbed me, ripped off my gown, threw me on the bed, and raped me.

Tharabell: After he was through, I just went kind of numb. When the nun came to get me, I said "kill me, I don't want to live."

Tharabell: She took me back... I was always afraid to say hi to my brothers.

Tharabell: I still hear whispering today: "Don't you tell anyone, we will look for you."

Tharabell: a few months later, I learned I was pregnant. I was only 12 years old.

Tharabell: after some time, they came and got me, took me to an old hospital and induced the baby. I hated that child for the longest time

Tharabell: they told me the baby died, but I heard the baby crying. I hated that baby, but it wasn't the baby's fault.

Tharabell says the rapist was the bishop.

Tharabell: I was there for 6 years, and I was hated.

Tharabell: finally, the nun said to me, we're going to let you go. We all left, went different routes.

Several people in the room are full on bawling.

Tharabell: has subsequently lost both her sister, one by gunshot.

The survivors sharing circle is finished for the day.

Editor's note: I'll have the second and third day of transcripts up soon, via this page.

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