Residential settlement survivor, Elder Theresa Hall, addresses the NWMO in honor of National Truth and Reconciliation Day

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This September 30 was the first Legislated National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The NWMO has joined with Indigenous peoples and Canadians across the country to reflect on the continuing impacts of residential institutions and their legacy.


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The NWMO commemorated the occasion by listening to and honoring a survivor of two residential facilities, Elder Theresa Hall. Elder Hall shared his story with NWMO employees virtually on September 28. Employees in attendance wore their orange Every Child Matters shirts and listened to the truths of Elder Hall with open ears, open hearts, open minds and open minds.

Born in Attawapiskat First Nation, Elder Hall is a proud Cree woman and member of the Council of Elders and Youth (the Council) an independent advisory body to the NWMO. Since joining the Board in 2017, Elder Hall has been instrumental in shaping the NWMO’s strategy Reconciliation policy and help guide the organization’s reconciliation journey.

“It is important for the NWMO to learn from and listen to Elders to ensure that we make a meaningful contribution to reconciliation. If Elders like Elder Hall support the NWMO’s reconciliation efforts, that tells me we are on the right track, ”said Bob Watts, Vice President, Indigenous Relations and Strategic Programs, NWMO.

In his youth, Elder Hall attended two of the very first residential establishments in Canada. One is the Sainte-Anne Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario, and the other, the Roman Catholic Indian Residential School in Fort George, Quebec. These schools were home to some of the most disturbing examples of abuse against Indigenous children in Canada.

“I still feel sadness when I remember those days. In the first years before residential schools, we were so happy. There was no alcohol, no drugs. We led a peaceful life, a balanced life, a life in the midst of nature, ”recalls Elder Hall.


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Elder Hall was taken from her home at the age of seven and had to attend a residential facility. She only spoke the Cree language at the time.

“The Cry was discouraged from speaking among us. I did not know the English language at all. It was very difficult trying to communicate with anyone, so I stayed silent, ”Elder Hall said.

Without her sister who was forced to be a young mother figure at just ten years old, Elder Hall says she would not have survived.

“My sister was my model. I loved him so much, ”Elder Hall said. “At night, she pulled our beds closer together until she knew I was ready to fall asleep, then separated the beds once I was asleep. We never got caught because if we had, we would have been punished. “

Elder Hall also acknowledged the large amount of abuse she and others at the facility faced, such as sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

While residential institutions have now been closed, their legacy continues through intergenerational trauma and other discriminatory colonial policies that impact Indigenous children to this day.

Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Calls for justice from the national inquiry into missing and murdered women and girlsgive us advice on how to move forward on this journey of truth, justice and reconciliation.

The NWMO hopes this will lead to positive change. This day itself, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, was born from a law that was just adopted in 2021.


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“It is my duty now to share this [culture, ceremony and language] with my children and grandchildren and make sure that they will always keep our culture and our language alive and honor them forever, ”said Elder Hall.

The NWMO is committed to continuing its journey towards reconciliation, including advocating for a space to be created for all Indigenous voices, and to listen to and honor their stories – past, present and future. Most importantly, the NWMO is committed to co-creating a better future based on respectful and reciprocal relationships with Indigenous peoples.

“It’s a good time for reflection. It is truly important for us to hear Elder Hall’s story as we continue our journey of reconciliation here at the NWMO. We cannot forget the past. We need to take action to support indigenous communities and have difficult conversations, ”said Laurie Swami, President and CEO. “We still have a way to go, but it takes time, and it is important for us to learn more and educate ourselves on this very important Canadian issue.”

Canadians can learn more about First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Several books and resources are available. You can also donate to charities that support survivors of residential institutions and improve the lives of Indigenous peoples.



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