Inuit Sub-Commission

From January 2011 to April 2012, the Inuit Sub-Commission carried out the work of the TRC in Northern Canada. Headquartered in Yellowknife, NT, the Sub-Commission ensured that Inuit Survivors of the residential schools were fully included in the national truth-telling and reconciliation process.



Where We've Been

Gjoa Haven Community Hearings- September 2012

The Inuit Sub Commission will be in Gjoa Haven, NU on September 19 and 20. The public hearing will take place on the 19th, while private statements will be recorded all day on the 20th. Click for details

The hearings were requested by the community and conincides with the Conference on Empowering Women organized by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. The Inuit Sub Commission has been working closely with the community for some time to plan the event.

Many children from Gjoa Haven were sent far away from their families to attend Residential School in Inuvik and lived in Grollier and Stringer Halls.

Inuit Sub Commission Co- Directors Robert Watt and Jennifer Hunt-Poitras will be on site for the public and private hearings.

Ottawa Urban Inuit Community Hearings- August 2012

The TRC Inuit Sub-Commission held an Inuit Urban Community Hearing in Ottawa on August 16. Read more

Media release

While In Ottawa for the Hearings, Commissioner Marie Wilson took the opportunity to visit Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's new president, Terry Audla and congratulate him on his recent election victory.

Beaufort-Delta (Inuvialuit) Hearings- May 2012

The Inuit Sub-Commission headed to the Beaufort-Delta just in time for spring. Both public and private statements were gathered at Hearings in the Inuvialuit communities of Paulatuk, Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok.

Baffin Island Community Hearings- February 2012

The Baffin Island Hearings took place in Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq from February 7-16, 2012. Read media release (Inuktitut) (Français)

The purpose of the Community Hearings on Baffin Island was to inform the public about the Commission’s work and statement gathering process, and provide survivors with time to reflect and share their experiences.

These Hearings also provided an opportunity for Residential School Survivors to share with the Commission and Canada the unique experiences of children who attended Residential Schools.

See Baffin Island Community Hearing Schedule

Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung Hearings

The Inuit Sub-Commission has visited Pond Inlet and Pangnirtung on Baffin Isalnd. Many of the Survivors have shared what it was like when young children were rounded up by government officials in the early 60's when people were still living outside of the community.

Although hostels were built in the communities with Inuit houseparents and most Survivors remember the houseparents fondly, they experienced abuse at school from teachers. All described how hard it was to be taken from a traditional lifestyle and thrust into a foreign environment where they were expected to function in a language they couldn't speak or understand.

The Sub-Commission also heard from the parents who shared the deep anguish and feelings of helplessness when their children were taken. Several Survivors in Pond Inlet told of a teacher who took boys to his home where he molested them. Though several reported him to authorities, he was removed from the community but never charged.

The following is a breakdown of numbers of statements collected in each community:

Pond Inlet - 16 public statements; 18 private statements
Pangnirtung - 17 public statements; 10 private statements

Baker Lake Hearings

The Qamani’tuaq Community Hall was filled with community members during the TRC’s recent hearing on November 15th, 2011.

The Event opened with a prayer from Reverend Jean Simailak and lighting of the Qulliq by Winnie Owingayak. Following that, 19 people spoke publicly to the Commission about the impact that Residential Schools have had on their lives, while six community members shared their experiences privately. The Commission heard powerful statements from survivors and from elders who remember when their children were taken away and the impact that has had on families and the community as a whole.

The event closed with more Drum Dancing that included an impromptu performance from Commissioner Marie Wilson. Fortunately for the Commission, a square dancing festival was held the same week as the visit to Baker Lake and members of the TRC got in some extreme square dancing Baker Lake style

Matna Qamani’tuarmuit Tunngasuktitaugatta

To see more photos of the Baker Lake Community Hearing, please visit our Facebook page.

Atlantic Hearings in Labrador

In preparation for the Atlantic National Event from October 26-29 in Halifax, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) hosted Hearings in Goose Bay (Inuktitut) and Hopedale (Inuktitut), (Nunatsiavut) NL. Watch video of the Hopedale Hearings in Nunatsiavut (Adobe Flash required)

Northern National Event and Northern Hearings

The Northern National Event in Inuvik wrapped up July 1. You can still see highlights from the Event by visiting the Nothern National Event website

Watch video of the Northern National Event(Adobe Flash required)

TRC Commissioners announced plans for Northern Hearings back in January. These hearings, which began March 15 in Inukjuak (Nunavik Region), QC, were an opportunity for residents of 18 northern communities to share their residential school experience with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Read more

Watch video of the Northern Hearings(Adobe Flash required)

Although the Northern Hearings are now over, you can still see the schedule of the hearings here.

To read about more about the Nunavik hearings, click here.

Read more about the Nunavut portion of the hearings: TRC in Nunavut.

Who We Are

Welcome to the new Inuit Sub-Commission section on the TRC website.

2011 has been a very active year for the Inuit Sub-commission. Some of this year’s highlights include a Northern Hearings tour in the spring, Community Events, the Northern National Event in Inuvik, ongoing statement gathering and much more.

Our Co-Directors Jennifer Hunt-Poitras and Robert Watt encourage you to learn more about the Sub-Commission’s activities and hope that you will take these opportunities to share your truth.

Robert Watt and Jennifer Hunt-Poitras

Overview of IRS system

For just over 100 years the Canadian government, often in partnership with leading Canadian church organizations, operated a series of residential schools for Aboriginal children.

The first jointly run government-church schools opened in 1883 in the Canadian prairies. By 1930 there were over 70 such schools across Canada. Some were located in cities, some on reserves, and some were deliberately located in rural areas far away from Aboriginal communities. The last schools did not close until the mid-1990s. Over 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children attended these schools.

Education at these schools was originally intended to “civilize and Christianize” Aboriginal children. It was felt at the time that this could be done best by separating children from their parents. This disruption in family life had a profound and ongoing impact on First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Up until the 1950s, the schools operated on the half-day system. This meant that in the morning students would study reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the afternoons, they worked: typically, the boys raised crops and livestock while the girls cooked, sewed and cleaned.

The men and women who worked in the schools were often highly dedicated people. Some of the staff believed that they had a responsibility to save children’s souls, while others wanted to provide students with skills needed to adapt to a new economic system. Aside from the basics, the schools provided students with an opportunity to play sports, learn musical instruments and participate in theatrical events.

Many of the schools were poorly built and underfunded. Death rates were particularly high in the early years and graduation rates were low. The residential schools also represented a direct assault on Aboriginal culture: children were punished for speaking their own language and practicing their culture. They were given European names, dressed in poorly fitting European clothes, and fed small portions of unfamiliar food. Discipline was often harsh, and many children ran away, sometimes with tragic results. Over the last 20 years it has become apparent that many children were subject to physical and sexual abuse in the schools. Parents frequently alerted church and government officials to these problems, but because they had no direct involvement in running the schools, their concerns were often ignored.

By the 1940s, the residential school system was recognized as a failure, yet the system was expanded into the Canadian north throughout the 1950s. In 1969, the federal government ended its partnership with the churches and slowly began to close the schools or turn them over to local educational authorities.

In 2007, after many years of protest and legal action, the voices of former students and their families were finally heard. Their allegations of abuse, neglect and the loss of their languages and cultures resulted in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which provided compensation to former students and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

There is still much to be learned about the schools. We encourage everyone who to take a moment to share their thoughts and memories about the schools with us and to participate in the statement gathering activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Community Events

In addition to seven National Events, Community Events offer another way for people to contribute to and be part of the truth and reconciliation process. These events can take any form, as long as they reflect the wishes of community members, making each community event unique.

Although funding for Community Events is limited, all communities are welcome and encouraged to create events and undertake activities that contribute to the truth and reconciliation process.

To find out more, download the Community Events Guide.

Statement Gathering

Why is the TRC gathering statements, documents and photographs?

Your statements, documents and photographs are very important and can help Canadians understand what the schools were like, what happened inside them and how the experience affected people for generations to come. Those that lived, attended and worked at the schools will finally be given a voice through the statement gathering process.

Until the end of the TRC’s mandate, there will be several opportunities to provide statements, including:

* TRC National Events
* Community Events
* Appointment with the Statement Gathering team

To watch a short video on Statement Gathering and what’s involved, click here. You can also find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Statement Gathering by clicking here.

Commemoration- Call for Proposals is Now CLOSED

The 2011 Call for Commemoration Proposals is now closed.

This call provided for $10 million in 2011-2012. All proposals will be reviewed and evaluated by the TRC, who will then make its recommendations to the Government of Canada, which will administer the funds. A second Call for Commemoration Proposals is expected to be launched in the Fall.

Updates will be available on the website.

Contact the Inuit Sub-Commission

Yellowknife office
5114 49th Street
Yellowknife, NT
X1A 1P7
Telephone: (867) 766-8491

Ottawa office
100 Sparks St. 4th Floor
Ottawa, ON
K1P 5B7
Telephone: (613) 992-8183
Cell: 613-818-1610
Fax: (613) 947-5794