“There are changes being made, like the inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women, but the government still has a lot to do, ” said James Buffin, a filmmaker from Toronto.
Buffin documents stories involving trauma and the ways people heal from them. He considers himself an ally to Indigenous peoples, by definition of the TRC.
On Wednesday June 11, 2008, Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister at the time, made a Statement of Apology on behalf of the Government of Canada, to the students of Indian Residential Schools.
The apology states the failing to recognize the severity of what the Residential Schools have caused acted as an impediment to healing and reconciliation.
However, after the apology, the Indigenous community still felt as if the government was not keeping their promises.
“We need people to honour their words, and we need to honour our words. There is a trust that is missing,” said Koostachin.
The TRC is the guideline for the government to approach reconciliation for the future, according to Indigenous peoples.
“I think the TRC recommendations are a good place to start because it derives from the testimonials of survivors, and all of the work that’s been done,” said Koostachin.
Her concerns with the government are not solely based around the Residential Schools that have caused her family so much pain and suffering. She still finds there are other problems involving the Indigenous community and the Canadian Government today.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline on Nov. 29, which carries crude and refined oil from Alberta to the West Coast of British Columbia. He also approved the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, a pipeline linked to the Enbridge Pipeline System, which transports crude oil and dilbit from Canada to the United States.
This created problems for the Indigenous community because many people believed there was a verbal agreement to not move forward with the project. For Indigenous people, having Trudeau now approve this project dampens the relationship and causes stress, according to Koostachin.
“We need to strengthen this relationship between the settlers and the Indigenous peoples. This is a time for cultures to finally come back together,” said Buffin.
However, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome, and the anger that remains is caused from years of serious oppression and racism.
“We’re the only country in the world with an Indian Act. That’s pretty archaic, because the Indian Act violates the Charter of Rights, and Human Rights Codes. So I think Canada still has a long way to go,” said Koostachin.
Many other survivors of the Residential Schools don’t think the Canadian Government is acting fast enough.
Scott Many Fingers' Tweet
Many Fingers, a Residential School Survivor and member of the Kainai/Blood First Nation, is tired of hearing the talk of reconciliation, and wants to see actions being done instead.
The Canadian Government may have a long way to go, but so do the survivors still healing from the trauma and horrific memories of what they had to endure.
“We provide support for survivors who faced abuse. We are creating the ability to help our people,” said Tom-Lindley
Okimawininew, now 72, has seen counsellors on and off, trying to receive the support she needs.
“She struggles each day. She has to wake up every morning and remember what has happened to her, because that trauma doesn’t leave you, it stays with you forever,” said Koostachin.
Despite the depression and anxiety that the Residential Schools have caused, Okimawininew still pushes through each day.
Koostachin and Okimawininew at a Pow Wow (Photo Credit: James Buffin)
“I think her grandkids give her hope. She’s proud of us, her children, and that we’ve done quite well. She’s a little better now that she’s older and her kids are adults. Our conversations are more mature and we can support her better. You can be more supportive when you have a better understanding of the past. But every day she still suffers,” said Koostachin.
Despite the increase in education on Indigenous Culture, and the Residential School’s history in schools and within communities, there are still Canadians who are unaware of their country’s past.
“People still deny that this actually happened, and they deny the severity of it. But I know what my mom went through; I lived through it with her. I know what she experienced because I’ve experienced it since I was a kid," said Koostachin.
"Don’t say it didn’t happen."