Former federal Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott is supporting the idea of adding the history of residential schools to classroom education across Canada.
Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission submitted an interim report with 20 recommendations on Friday, including one saying Canada's residential school history should be taught in the classroom.
Scott, who was an honourary witness for the commission, said he believes students should learn about the sad chapter in Canadian history.
“I was very much moved by the fact that people said 'Nobody believed me' and I think there's incredible restorative benefit of having institutional belief so that when you teach it in school, that's the signal that this is the truth and a truth that needs to be told,” Scott said on Monday.
Scott was the federal Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister between 2004 and 2006.
From the late 1870s to as recently as 1996, children from aboriginal communities were sent away from their families to more than 130 different residential schools, to be assimilated into French- or English-Canadian culture.
As many as 150,000 aboriginal children were sent to residential schools. Many of them suffered neglect or physical and sexual abuse.
Scott said the classroom instruction would be age appropriate.
The commission’s recommendation is also being endorsed by Barbara Martin, the project co-ordinator of the Mi'kmaq-Maliseet Healing Networking Centre.
Martin said many former residential school students who testified before the commission would be willing to re-tell their stories in New Brunswick classrooms.
“To have it in the elementary schools is critical," she said. "Children need to hear, the new generation needs to understand what happened in their country as a result of government policy so that when they grow up they will be less inclined to allow a government to do this again."
The commission is also recommending the federal government distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s formal apology to residential school survivors.
The report suggests the apology should be displayed in every Canadian secondary school and be sent to every known residential school survivor.
The commission’s final report will be released in 2014.