Academic nominated to truth commission

Published September 4, 2007

The general secretary’s office of the Anglican Church of Canada has nominated J. Rick Ponting, professor emeritus (sociology) of the University of Calgary, to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an important component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The commission will take effect once former residential schools students accept the agreement. The federal government is expected to announce its choice for chair and two members in the fall.

Former students and their families had until Aug. 20 to opt out of the agreement.

Mr. Ponting, an Anglican, has taught courses on the sociology of First Nations and was the founding director of the University of Calgary’s B.A. program in International Indigenous Studies. He said that the residential schools system has been a major focus of his courses. He has conducted 30 years of research on public opinion of non-natives on indigenous issues.

The commission intends to promote public education about the legacy of the now-defunct Indian residential schools and to provide former students and their families a chance to share their experiences in a “holistic, culturally-appropriate and safe setting.” It will produce a report and recommendations, and establish a national archive/research center regarding residential schools.

The Anglican Church of Canada operated 26 of 80 boarding schools attended by aboriginals from the mid-19th century into the 1970s. Hundreds of former students have sued the church and the federal government, which owned the schools, alleging physical and sexual abuse. In 2006, the church (along with other churches that operated schools) renegotiated its agreement with the federal government.


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