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Governor-General Michaelle Jean will make herself scarce during the Queen's nine-day visit, which begins June 28. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Governor-General Michaelle Jean will make herself scarce during the Queen's nine-day visit, which begins June 28. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Michaëlle Jean joins last day of Truth and Reconciliation Commission Add to ...

Governor-General Michaëlle Jean says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission examining the history of Indian residential schools is helping to refound Canada.

"This is what truth and reconciliation is about. It's some kind of refoundation of our nation," she said.

"This has to happen in our history. We need to come together we need to confront history together."

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She was bathed in sacred smoke, dressed in a ceremonial shawl and treated like the royalty she represents as she took part in the final day of the commission's events. It was the first of seven such national gatherings planned.

For four days, some of the 85,000 people estimated still living who went to Indian residential schools have had a chance to tell their stories, either in private or in public. The commission set up tents on the green space surrounding The Forks National Historic Site.

Survivors told of physical and sexual abuse, of losing their language and culture and being left unable to raise a family. They told of turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to forget.

Their children and other family members have also had a chance to say what the residential school experience meant to them.

Ms. Jean sat in the front row of the Manitoba Theatre for Young People to hear aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth tell stories of what the residential school issue means to them

Metis and First Nations young people told of the damage done to their families by the schools. The mostly teenage group told stories of abuse at the hands of parents who were themselves abused in residential schools.

One boy trembled so violently he had to comforted before he could continue with his story and how he ended up in a street gang.

"It's not easy. It takes a lot of courage to share those stories to listen to them," Ms. Jean said after the young people had finished.

"But we have one responsibility we have to carry out together. It's breaking the wall of indifference."

She said Canadians are known around the world for their acceptance of other cultures and it's time Canada also showed the world that it knows residential schools were wrong and that it is ready to make things better for aboriginal people.

The $60-million commission is part of the $4-billion compensation program for survivors of the Indian residential schools. About 150,000 children were taken from their parents and sent to the schools before they were closed in 1996.

In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the government's role in sending children to the church-run schools.

The commission was established to tell Canadians the story of residential schools and what they did to aboriginal people, and to help reconciliation with aboriginal families, churches, governments and all Canadians.

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