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Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings must be acted upon, aboriginal student says

06/06/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 06/06/2016 05:59 EDT
A B.C aboriginal university student says it is essential all Canadians read and understand the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because it is the only way Canada can move forward as a united country.

"The responsibility falls on all [of us], whether Canadians like to hear that or not, it's the truth." said Vyna Brown, who is from the Heiltsiuk Nation in Bella Bella, B.C.

Earlier this week the Commission used the term cultural genocide for what happened to the 150,000 or so aboriginal children and their families while the schools operated. TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair made 94 recommendations for change in policies and programs.

Brown, whose four grandparents attended residential school, said the report is a step in the right direction and has given her insight into the significant impact residential schools had on her community.

"The addiction, the abuse, the drugs ... you see it when you are growing up. You may not pinpoint it and identify it as a direct effect of residential schools when you are a child growing up. But you sense it, you feel it."

"Once you get that education and understand the history of why your family members and community has these issues, it becomes less of a burden on your shoulders and more of a community burden and ultimately the country of Canada's burden."

Education is key

This month Brown is graduating from Northwest Indian College in Washington and then pursuing a masters degree in energy law and indigenous law at the University of Tulsa. She says it's important aboriginal youth get an education to create more opportunities for themselves and their communities.

"I'm not just saying in a western institution. Your education from your people as well. Knowing who you are, your roots, your family stories, where you come from, your name. Once you get that identity strong, then you are strong enough to go into those institutions and get that Western education."

"You have the choice now and you don't have to endure what they went through because they suffered for us and we have to remember that and take that and use it as motivation to make our people strong again."

To hear the full interview with Vyna Brown, listen to the audio labelled Next generation talks reconciliation after cultural genocide

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