Four major announcements were made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) on January 13: 1) a new office will open in Yellowknife; 2) there will be a series of hearings in the far north prior to a national event in Inuvik; 3) the creation of a National Research Centre on Residential Schools in Vancouver; and 4) the setting up of a $20 million fund for commemoration activities.

In regards to the new Yellowknife offices for the TRC, commissioner Marie Wilson is elated as this will be her new home base.

“This will put us closer to the region that we need to get to,” said Wilson.

The TRC hearings tour through the far north will begin March 15 in Inukjuak, Quebec, and wrap up May 27 in Watson Lake, Yukon.

“The northern hearings are an opportunity for residential school survivors, who might not be able to come to us, to speak up, be heard and inform the commission and Canadians of the unique experiences of children who attended residential schools in Canada’s North,” said Sinclair.

Though this will be leading up to the TRC’s second national event to be held in Inuvik, NWT, June 28-July 1, it is not expected that every survivor in that region will attend. Survivors can go to one or the other if they choose since it’s really about getting their stories told and holding hearings for those who have filed an Independent Assessment Process (IAPs).

In terms of Quebec, the TRC is not expected to hold hearings in the James Bay region or elsewhere in Quebec until the lead up to the national event scheduled for the province in early 2013.

“The intent is that we are starting in Inukjuak and Nunavik in Northern Quebec and then continuing west, so there will be some communities included. In terms of James Bay communities, I am not sure what you include in that definition, but we have a regional liaison in Quebec who will be assisting us when it comes to community events in the province,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair was asked if the TRC had developed any new protocols when it came to the hearings, as those who are claiming student-on-student abuse in their IAPs may be naming people within their own communities.

While survivors can chose to give their testimony either publicly or privately, should they name another student as an abuser or person of interest, that individual legally has to be notified of what is being alleged against them.

While Sinclair didn’t have any answer in regards to this specific matter at present, he did say that it was something that he would be discussing with the Chief Adjudicator to see if a specific policy could be developed in regards to the matter. At the same time, he expressed his desire to remind everyone that these persons of interest are victims too.

The TRC will also be hosting an international forum in Vancouver March 1-3 at the Sheraton Wall Centre to discuss a new national research centre.

The idea behind the centre is to archive all of testimony collected from survivors over the years and to educate Canadians and the rest of the world on the impact of the residential school system.

In discussing the newly announced $20 million for commemoration activities and monuments, Sinclair said individual communities could apply for up to $50,000 for an event or monument within their community. As many as 10 communities can pool together for a single project that costs up to $500,000.

Half the funds will be administered during the 2011-2012 fiscal year and the rest the following fiscal year.

“The commemoration is intended to be about honouring, educating, memorializing, remembering and paying tribute to former residential school survivors, their families and their communities. It is also to acknowledge the experience and the broad systemic impacts of residential schools,” said Sinclair.