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Survivors and Families: Being Enlightened

Madeleine Basile is a member of the Survivor Committee, is an advisory body established within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The term 'survivor' was chosen to describe those who were in residential schools and are still alive today. They number around 80,000 across Canada, out of 150 000 went through the school system.

Madeleine is Atikamekw and comes from the community of Wemotaci, located 115 kilometers north-west of La Tuque. Websites providing geographical directions, show that one must take Forest Road 25 to get there. And that it is a four hour trip!

"I am happy with the turnout," she says when I ask her if she is pleased with what she has seen at this national event. "It is important that they speak of their experience... of what they went through in residential schools", she says. Important on a personal level, as it is a critical to bring these events to light as a part of our Canadian history.

"We were hiding away in the residential schools as well as being hidden in history of Canada," speaking as former student at the Catholic school in Pointe-Bleue, Lac Saint-Jean. "The Government of Canada has done immense harm to the aboriginal people, snatching children from their families and their communities. It is very important that this story be known throughout Canada. "

"Survivors and their families"

Understanding the significance placed upon past, present and future generations by the aboriginals people, some believe that what happens today may have a ripple-effect for the next seven generations. Consider the momentous consequences when realizing that several generations of children were uprooted.

Moreover, according Madeleine, it is not only the children who suffered because of the law requiring them to attend these residential schools for assimilation. It is important to include the families the survivors left behind. "Even though primarily it was the children who were taken away, everyone in the community suffered. It wasn't just me affected by residential schools: it was all of us!"

"My mother lost all her children. And I unwittingly passed along the hurt to my children." Despite the consequences laid upon the generation of her children, Madeleine now has hopes for them.  "Yesterday, we had a good dialogue with young people. And I want to pursue this path of reconciliation with the young people".

Churches and Survivors at the Top of the Mountain

In Pointe-Bleue, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate were in charge of the school. "There is a reconciliation that is in the process for me," she confided. "The doors are not closed," contrary to what some survivors feel, "those still living in anger toward the Churches." For Madeleine, even if the doors are not "wide open", the reconciliation process is working. She went on further to say that she is "pleased" because at meeting of the regional coordination committee of the survivors of which she belongs, church representatives are present.

She compares the process of the dialogue that of climbing a mountain. Each person picks a slope, eventually meeting on the summit. In her case, it is a dialogue "in the stage of beginning."  Madeleine still wonders: What were they thinking, the people that were in charge? She would like to discuss her feelings with those in the religious orders who may also be journeying up this mountain.

Enlightened Beings

For Madeleine Basile, the national event, and her participation in it as a member of the Committee of survivors represent to her "a very honorable step".

As she said earlier, this is a step of revelation. "Because I've been at the residential school for ten years, and then for several years, I carried the shame and humiliation with me. So today, I wanna be me (repeat) ... I am not acquainted with that little Madeleine! I am now on this path: to discover for myself who this little Madeleine was."

Finally, at this time, her wish for the survivors and their families is "to reach their inner lights" as she, herself, seems to get a little closer to hers each day. "The Buddhists would call it 'their illumination'." She laughed heartily before finishing with, "This is what I wish every survivor and their families."


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