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The panel created to investigate Canada's Indian residential schools era is being forced to start anew after a high-level power struggle led to Friday's resignation of the remaining two commissioners.

Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Morley issued a joint statement announcing their resignation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission effective June 1, 2009. The announcement follows the resignation of Mr. Justice Harry LaForme as commission chairman last October.

Judge LaForme had said he could not continue in an environment where Ms. Dumont-Smith and Ms. Morley regularly overruled his plans for the commission.

"We personally regret that we will not be continuing as Commissioners for the full five-year mandate," wrote the two remaining commissioners Friday. "However we have become convinced that the time has come for us to step aside and let others take on this demanding but rewarding mission."

Michael Cachagee of the National Residential School Survivors' Society said the resignation of the commissioners was the only way to clear the air after Judge LaForme's resignation.

"Since the resignation of Justice LaForme, we viewed the whole TRC process as being tainted and that the only way in which it could be cleansed, in a sense - and with a renewed approach for survivor participation - would be to have the other commissioners resign and begin fresh," Mr. Cachagee said.

The commission and its $60-million budget were created as a result of the roughly $4-billion out-of-court settlement agreed to in 2006 by the Conservative government, churches and representatives of the approximately 80,000 surviving former students.

The commission is modelled on a process that took place in South Africa that looked back on that country's apartheid era. The Canadian commission's mandate is to spend five years hearing stories from across the country and gathering records to compile the official history of the schools era.

The residential schools ran as joint ventures between the federal government and various churches starting in the late 1800s and were largely phased out by the end of the 1960s. Some of the students were removed from their communities by force to attend far-away dormitory schools as part of a federally approved policy to assimilate aboriginals into the culture of European immigrants.

Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, who will have the final say on the three new commissioners recommended by a new selection panel, said the development will ultimately be a good thing for the commission's long-term work.

"Everybody feels very positive going forward," he said in an interview. "We'll be able to move forward with greater clarity and quickly and the TRC should be able to do their job that we all hope will get done."

Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and one of the first native leaders to go public with personal stories of abuse at the schools, will be one of six people on a selection committee chaired by Mr. Justice Frank Iacobucci, who helped reach the original residential schools settlement.

He said it will be made clear to the three new commissioners that they are to operate as much as possible on consensus. He also said there is no deadline for filling the positions and there is no shortlist of names from which to choose.

"We're going to treat this with some urgency," he said in an interview. "But at the same time, we want to make sure we do it right."

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