The two remaining commissioners on the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Claudette Dumont-Smith and Jane Morley, announced their resignations on Jan. 30.This follows Justice Harry LaForme’s resignation as chair of the commission in October. At the time, Mr. LaForme said he was resigning because the other two commissioners did not accept his authority and leadership as the chair of the panel. The work of the commission has been on hold since that time, while a replacement for Mr. LaForme was sought.
In a joint statement explaining the reasons for their decision to resign, effective June 1, 2009, Ms. Dumont-Smith and Ms. Morley, said they had “concluded that the best way forward for a successful Truth and Reconciliation Commission process is with a new slate of Commissioners.”
Regarding Mr. Harry LaForme’s remarks, the commissioners said: “Although we disagree with the stated perceptions of Mr. Justice Harry LaForme when he resigned as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we believe that revisiting the statements he made at the time of his resignation would not be of any benefit to the truth and reconciliation process, to which we remain profoundly committed.”
Ms. Dumont-Smith and Ms. Morley said they personally regretted that they would not be continuing as commissioners for their full five-year mandate, but they felt they had to step aside for the good of the commission. “In addition, we want it to be known that, regardless of any differences that might have existed between Mr. Justice LaForme and ourselves, there was never in our view any difference in the importance we all attached to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada,” they wrote. “What is important now is for everyone involved to focus on the task of getting the truth and reconciliation process back on track without further delay.”
The TRC is part of a revised and court-approved Indian residential schools agreement that was negotiated in 2006 between former students, churches (including the Anglican church), the federal government, the Assembly of First Nations and other aboriginal organizations. It aims to provide former students and their families with a chance to share their experiences in a culturally-appropriate setting, and to set the historical record straight about the 150-year legacy of forced assimilation through the Indian residential schools.