CAUTION: This narrative includes disturbing information.
As the leader of Newfoundland and Labrador commences a series of apologies to survivors of residential schools on Wednesday, a survivor offers guidance on how he can create a lasting influence.
Miriam Lyall, an Inuk from Nunatsiavut, intends to be present at the apology event in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She expressed her preference for Andrew Furey to spend more time engaging with survivors rather than making six brief visits over three days.
Lyall expressed the need for active listening and not just offering apologies without taking appropriate action. It is important to ensure that our efforts yield positive results. That is all Lyall can convey.
At the age of 13, Lyall was taken away from her home in Hopedale and relocated to the North West River dormitory, which has a troubling past of mistreatment.
Lyall expressed that she experienced a sense of shame regarding her Inuit identity, was prohibited from using her native language, and endured traumatic experiences that subsequently caused her to struggle with depression for many years.
“I have lost all connection with my parents,” Lyall expressed regarding the ordeal. “I feel remorseful for harboring that sense of shame, but after four or five decades, I am finally coming to the realization that it was not our responsibility.”
Lyall expressed doubt regarding the apology’s sincerity upon its announcement. She remains furious at those who mistreated and exploited young girls and boys, but she believes that the apologies might aid individuals in their path to recovery.
Lyall expressed that the consequences of this were incredibly damaging, spanning across multiple generations. It is not surprising that there were long-lasting effects on future generations. Lyall hopes that the apology will lead to positive outcomes in the future.
The apologies come at a turbulent time for the provincial government’s relations with Indigenous groups in Labrador.
The Nunatsiavut Government and Innu Nation have demanded the resignation of Lisa Dempster, Minister of Indigenous and Labrador Affairs under Furey’s administration. This request comes following Furey’s apology to the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC), a distinct Labrador group.
Nunatsiavut and Innu Nation both argue that the NCC is not an Indigenous group, a claim that the NCC strongly disagrees with.
The scheduled times for the apology ceremonies are as follows:
- Rigolet, Northern Lights Academy, 11 a.m. AT
- Postville, Recreation Centre, 3 p.m.AT
- Makkovik, Community Centre, 10 a.m. AT
- Hopedale, Nanuk Community Centre, 3 p.m. AT
- Nain, Jeremiah Sillett Community Centre, 10 a.m. AT
- Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Masonic Lodge, 3:30 p.m. AT
The deputy minister of NG apologizes for the delay.
Michelle Kinney, the deputy minister of health and social development for the Nunatsiavut Government, expressed that the apology has been overdue, and each community has independently devised their plans to cater to the needs of their residential school survivors.
Kinney said that there would be cultural activities specific to each community, with survivors having the opportunity to accept the apology and potentially meet with the premier to discuss their personal experiences.
Kinney emphasized the significance of conducting ceremonies in every community to acknowledge the profound influence that schools have on all aspects of a community. She believes that this approach is essential for the process of healing and mentioned that numerous individuals are actively seeking measures to promote reconciliation.
Kinney mentioned that they are actively seeking modifications in policies and practices within the provincial government, and collaborating with the Nunatsiavut Government to implement some of those changes.
I believe certain events are unfolding, and we are making progress in a positive direction. I hope that for certain individuals who have endured difficult situations, this will provide some form of resolution and recognition for their experiences.
A survivor residing in Nain is requesting an apology from the church.
Norman Andersen holds a contrasting viewpoint, expressing his intention to attend the provincial apology event. However, he mentioned that the Moravian Church was responsible for running the residential school in Nain.
He suggests that church officials owe an apology to the community instead of politicians.
The Nain Boarding School operated from April 1949 to June 1973. The school was torn down in Nain in 2022.
Andersen emphasized the importance of church officials issuing an apology, despite the fact that the memories will persist.
He claimed that he suffered a severe beating from the missionaries, which led to a three-week coma during his hospital stay, and he stressed that the conditions were unsuitable for children.
“At night there, we had to maintain silence,” Andersen stated. “We slept on the bare floor inside sleeping bags, without any mattresses. We only had one blanket, made of seal skin. This was our routine for nine months every year.”
Dempster not attending Nunatsiavut apologies
The apologies in Nunatsiavut come a month after Furey apologized to residential school survivors from the NunatuKavut Community Council in Cartwight.
Earlier this month, the Innu Nation withdrew from the Indigenous roundtable led by the premier amid demands for Dempster’s resignation.
Dempster will not be in attendance at the Nunatsiavut apologies, saying she has duties she needs to take care of in St. John’s as the deputy government house leader.
Kinney stated that the timing of the apologies to Nunatsiavut survivors was not affected by the apology given to NunatuKavut survivors last month.
She mentioned that Nunatsiavut took sufficient time for preparation, which is why the ceremonies are taking place at this moment.
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