National Survivor Movement

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During the 1980s and 1990s, Survivors began to create groups to support one another through healing and promoting legal action for reconciliation. Survivors from across Canada came together to form a class-action lawsuit related to the abuse and harm at Residential Schools. This movement started to draw media attention with the testimony of Phil Fontaine, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in October of 1990. Phil Fontaine publicly shared some of his own experience within the Residential School system in hopes of encouraging more Survivors to share their stories to heal and ultimately help create the Residential School Settlement Agreement.

The Survivor movement was happening during a time of resistance and attention surrounding Indigenous affairs with the events of the Oka Crisis occurring in 1990. The government of Canada moved to initiate the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) in 1991. RCAP held hearings all over Canada with communities and individuals from First Nations, Metis, Inuit territories. The 1996 final report of RCAP included calls for a public inquiry, including a call to investigate and document the effects of Residential School on Survivors and their descendants. This call also included an investigation into abuse at Residential Schools.

In 1998 the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) was founded. The AHF was established for research, recognizing the legacies of Residential Schools, and to support community-based healing. The AHF supported community-based, Survivors focused healing projects across Canada and funded 136 projects between 1999 and 2012.

In 2001 the Office of Indian Residential School Resolution Canada was founded to organize and resolve the abuse claims filed by former students against the federal government. In 2007, the Indian Residential School Agreement was approved and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). To learn more about the Settlement Agreement and TRC see Module 5: Relationships and Reconciliation.