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Now a positive step has been taken to confront and deal with this issue. A report has been released entitled 'Breaking The Silence', and a national lobbying committee chaired by National Chief Ovide Mercredi has been established to seek redress for the human rights violations which were committed.
The damage is immeasurable. The harsh abusive environment experienced by many children of the residential school system has resulted in the carry-over of maltreatment into present day situations which are in turn affecting today's First Nations children. The intergenerational cycle of patterns of abuse and mistrust stemming from years of residential schooling has had widespread impact on First Nations people everywhere, and is a contributing factor in the breakdown of the family, the community and the cultural fabric of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
For too long, these survivors have suffered in silence, with no recourse for the many atrocities they have experienced and witnessed. And there has been no means to heal the suffering. So they suffer in silence, bearing the pain and humiliation, their daily lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren made wretched by unresolved feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness.
Breaking The Silence opens up many old wounds. It examines the impact of residential schooling, and the pain is illustrated in the stories told by adult survivors; how it has impacted on their lives and the lives of their children. By breaking their silence and sharing their painful experiences, they will open the eyes of many to the emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuses suffered by generations of children. They will create awareness of the way these children were denied their culture, their native language and familial structures by forced assimilation into an alien culture.
Some will be shocked by the contents of this document. Others will shake their heads in disbelief, and still others will close their eyes and refuse to see.
But the time has come to deal with facts. The traumatic effects of residential school life have had far-reaching impacts. Scores of First Nations people are lost, isolated and have turned to alcohol abuse and abuses of all kinds in an attempt to cope and forget. The only hope for reclamation is that these human rights violations be recognized, that the shame be put where it belongs and that today's leaders and people everywhere begin working together to heal and redress the inequities.
But in the final analysis, men and women must go beyond the human solution, back to a spiritual base where all wisdom and comfort lies. Where else can we go for the guidance needed for the task that is before us?