William Coombs, 54, attended two British Columbia schools from 1958 to 1967, including Kamloops Indian Residential School and Mission Indian Residential School. Sylvester Green was sent to a school in Edmonton. The two men first told their stories in a film by Kevin Annett.
"I witnessed too many children being dragged by the hair" to the room of a Catholic brother, Mr. Combs said. "That's the worst thing that hurts me is the sexual abuse.
"That's what he was doing. I was dragged to that room one night and I found out what was happening. Sexual abuse and getting beat up and forced to stay in his room all night. I was about nine years old."
Eventually, he said, students threw a blanket over the brother's head and beat him up. They had watched it happen too many times.
Sylvester Green, 63, said: "No matter how old you are, it hurts. For me, I was sent to Edmonton in 1949 and I left there in 1959. In that school, there were three perpetrators. One of them was supposed to be a minister. On Sundays he would go up in the pulpit and preach the word of God. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, he would abuse the kids."
Beatings left pupil unable to be happy Peter Paul recalls running away from the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia after a particularly brutal beating. He was nine years old and had angered the orderly who took care of the boys on weekends by getting up from his bed to go to the bathroom.
"He picked me up two or three times, kicked me and threw me against the wall," Mr. Paul told The Globe and Mail. "He terrified me. After that happened, I could have killed him or run away."
Mr. Paul, now 50, did run away but he got caught and was returned to the school. It wasn't the first time he had ever been beaten. In fact, his refusal to cry on other occasions usually resulted in him receiving more lashes than the other boys.
One time, he said, his brother yelled, "You should at least pretend you're crying, you stupid son of a bitch."
But the beating by the orderly seemed to change everything, he said. "I didn't know how to be happy after that."
Mr. Paul, the youngest in a family of five children, went to the school when he was 5. He told his story for the first time to The Globe and has never even talked to his brothers and sister about their days at the school.
"I don't listen to anyone else's stories," he said.
To start healing, hating has to stopDebbie Paul has made her own peace with the nun who gave her the strap for merely fidgeting during mass when she attended the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia.
Ms. Paul, now 51, said she recently paid a visit to Sister DiGilberta, who is 92 and ill with cancer. It turned out that the nun had a photograph of Ms. Paul's younger sister, Maggie, who died in 1978 at the age of 21.
"She had hung on to the picture for 40 years," Ms. Paul said. But Sister DiGilberta gave the photograph to Ms. Paul, the only one she has of her sister.
Ms. Paul said if she hadn't been able to get over her anger, she never would have found out about the photograph.
"There comes a point in your life," she said, "when you have to stop hating, and you have to heal."