UCDSB Student Addresses
Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s
(Pictured above: Rockland District High School student Gavin Bergeron was a youth participant on a First Nations, Métis and Inuit panel Monday discussing the residential schools tragedy at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Education Day.)
By Mark Calder
(Ottawa) – A student from Rockland District High School presented his perspective on the residential schools tragedy to hundreds of Canadian youth on Monday who attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Education Day.
Gavin Bergeron was a youth participant on a First Nations, Métis and Inuit panel discussing the tragedy, and also had the honour of presenting closing remarks on behalf of The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada.
The day was organized by the TRC to raise awareness among Canadian youth about the injustice of Canada’s residential school system to prevent such a tragedy from ever recurring. Nearly 2,000 children attended the event, held at the Ernst and Young Centre in Ottawa.
For more than 120 years, tens of thousands of Aboriginal children were sent to Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and run by the churches. They were taken from their families and communities in order to be stripped of language, cultural identity and traditions in an attempt to assimilate native cultures. The system, which ended with the closure of the final school in 1996, left a legacy of intergenerational abuse.
The day offered panel discussions about the system, testimonials from elders who had experienced residential schools, and displays that informed students about the government policy – including a large map that showed the influence of residential schools across Canada.
Bergeron, the Native Student Leadership Student Senate trustee-elect for the Upper Canada District School Board, said the experience of Education Day, acting as a panelist, and reading the closing remarks to fellow students, was a powerful one.
“It had a huge impact on me,” he said. “I was able to pass on my opinion and knowledge to other students and help them accept what has happened.”
While Bergeron was too young to experience the schools, as a native student he spoke on the panel about the need to acknowledge what took place, and implement change to increase knowledge to ensure it does not happen again. More must be done to raise awareness and public campaigns such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work, and the Upper Canada District School Board’s Native Student Leadership Days, help battle the stereotypes and build understanding between native and non-native people.
“Not all school children in Canada have been educated on this topic, which brings ignorance and stereotyping,” he said. “We had a history of discrimination and we cannot hide from it. We have to acknowledge it because that is where change has to come from. We have to acknowledge that (as a nation) we made a mistake and we still need to make Canadians aware that this has happened.
Posted June 3, 2015