About the Commission


The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established on June 1, 2008, with a mandate of 5 years.

As a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the TRC is an independent body that will oversee a process to provide former students and anyone who has been affected by the Indian Residential Schools legacy, with an opportunity to share their individual experiences in a safe and culturally appropriate manner.

Canada’s TRC is unique from other commissions around the world in that its scope is primarily focussed on the experiences of children. Its focus of research spans more than 100 years, one of the longest durations ever examined. It is also the first court-ordered truth commission to be established. As such, the court plays an ongoing role in the implementation and supervision of the commission.

Over the course of its five year mandate, the Commission will:

  • Create an accurate and public historical record of the past regarding the policies and operations of the former residential schools, what happened to the children who attended them, and what former employees recall from their experiences.
  • Complete a public report that will include recommendations to all parties of the Settlement Agreement concerning the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) system.
  • Host seven national gatherings in regions across Canada to promote awareness and public education about the IRS legacy and its impacts.
  • Support a Commemoration Initiative that will fund initiatives that pay tribute to survivors.
  • Support community events designed by communities to meet their unique needs.
  • Establish a national research centre that will be a permanent resource for all Canadians.
  • Guide and inspire Aboriginal peoples and Canadians in a process of truth and healing on a path leading toward reconciliation and renewed relationships based on mutual understanding and respect.

Historical Overview

Indian Residential Schools date back to the1870’s. The policy behind the government funded, church-run schools attempted to “kill the Indian in the child”. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, with the last one closing in 1996.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools. Many were forbidden to speak their language and practice their own culture. Today, there are an estimated 80,000 former students still living.

While some former students had positive experiences at residential schools, many suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and others died while attending these schools. The unresolved trauma suffered by former students has been passed on from generation to generation.

The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) report recognized that the future must include a place for those affected by Indian Residential Schools, so as to enable them to stand with dignity, to remember, to voice their sorrow and anger and to be listened to with respect.

Following the RCAP report, Gathering Strength, Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan was unveiled. This included a Statement of Reconciliation acknowledging the Government of Canada’s role in the development and administration of Indian residential schools.

In 2001, the federal Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada was created to manage and resolve the large number of abuse claims filed by former students against the federal government. In 2004, an Assembly of First Nations Report on Canada’s Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools lead to discussions to develop a holistic, fair and lasting resolution of the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. This resulted in the negotiated Settlement Agreement that was approved by all parties and implemented on September 19, 2007.

The IRSSA was approved by the Courts and came into effect on September 19, 2007. It includes the following individual and collective measures to address the legacy of the Indian Residential School system:

  • Common Experience Payment to be paid to all eligible former students who resided at a recognized Indian Residential School;
  • Independent Assessment Process for claims of sexual and serious physical abuse;
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
  • Commemoration Activities;
  • Measures to support healing such as the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program and an endowment to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government of Canada, issued an apology in the House of Commons to former students, their families and communities. The apology is considered by many as a step towards reconciliation.

The work of the TRC will further contribute to a forward looking process of truth, healing and reconciliation.