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Truth documents must never be in the control of the perpetrators.


The truth gathering does not end with the collection of documents.

"Creating archives is important, but creating archives only is not enough," said Doudou Diene, chair of the International Coalition of Sites and Programs of Conscience in Senegal.

"(You need) to transform knowledge from archives to induce transformation, individual and collective (mindset) transformation."

Diene was one of almost 40 international speakers at a forum hosted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Vancouver in March. Speakers shared their expertise in the work they were undertaking to ensure the painful histories in their respective countries were not forgotten.

The establishment of a National Research Centre is one of the requirements of the TRC as outlined by the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

"The commission has an obligation to ensure there is a national memory about Indian residential schools that has a permanent established place in our history," said Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC

"The justice to the true story comes about by looking at the important question 'What do we do about this?' ... We must always be able to determine for ourselves, to know from one generation to the next, what went on."

That acknowledgement and remembrance is important, said Stephen Smith, executive director with the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Institute.

"Today we have a term which is called restorative justice, (which) means ... in the absence of true justice there still needs to be a process by which we can restore, through acknowledgement, through memory ... by acknowledging through compensation and through the courts, your loss," said Smith, founding director of the UK Holocaust Centre, Britain's first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education institution.

"By trying to create through education a way forward that what happened was wrong. In whatever way we can we will restore something of the past."

Sinclair said much of the information presented at the forum was not new to him or commissioners Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson, but it did reinforce some of their beliefs.

"One of the things that came ... in establishing the archive of documents was the importance of ensuring that the documents were never under the control of those who had perpetrated the wrong to begin with," said Sinclair.

"That was a consistent theme. That was a feeling we had from the beginning, but [the gathering] reinforced that strongly and has made us determined to ensure (that)."

Funding, said Sinclair, will be left up to the proponents. However, he noted that presenters stated a sole-source funder meant that the project could collapse if the funder pulled out.

About half a dozen models were made apparent from the three-day forum that the commission will consider.

"We have to decide well before the end of this commission how this National Research Centre is going to be established," said Sinclair.

What could happen is that the centre becomes a legal entity established by a corporation or foundation only, but without a building. This would present logistical problems for the TRC, which already has a large collection of documents, including video and audio.

"How are they going to be housed if you don't have a place to house them? I think that's the challenge we're faced with," said Sinclair.

A request for proposals for the establishment of a National Research Centre will be going out. A "sooner than later" deadline is expected, said Sinclair.

Narine, Shari

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Author:Narine, Shari
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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