As determined by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, one of the objectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was to “witness, support, promote and facilitate truth and reconciliation events at both the national and community levels.”
The term “witness” is in reference to the Indigenous principle of witnessing, which varies among First Nations, Métis Nation and Inuit peoples. Generally speaking, witnesses are called to be the keepers of history when an event of historic significance occurs. This is partly due to the oral traditions of Indigenous Peoples, but also to recognize the importance of conducting business, as well as building and maintaining relationships.
Through witnessing by honoured and respected guests, the event or work that is undertaken is validated and provided legitimacy.
Witnesses were also asked to retain and care for the history they witness and most importantly, to share it with their own people when they return home.
On October 15, 2009, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean became the first Honorary Witness. A ceremony was held at Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s official residence and workplace. At the National Events in Inuvik, Halifax and Saskatoon, as well as other TRC events, subsequent persons fulfilled this important role and committed to share what they learned.
TRC Honorary Witnesses
Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the TRC Northern National Event in Inuvik in June 2011:
Grand Chief Ed John
Shelagh Rogers OC
Peter (Iguttaq) Irniq
Francisco Cali Tzay
Honorary Witnesses inducted at Revitalizing Reconciliation in Ontario — A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on September 28, 2011:
The Honourable David C. Onley, O. Ont
Marc Kielburger, CM, OMC
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the Atlantic National Event in Halifax in October 2011:
The Honourable Andy Scott
Michael Abdur Rashid Taylor
Judge Corrine E. Sparks
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the TRC Regional Event in Victoria, BC in April, 2012:
Her Honour Mrs. Gwendolyn Point
Dr. Andrea Walsh
Honorary Witnesses inducted at The Meeting Place, Truth and Reconciliation, Toronto 2012 conference in May 2012:
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the Saskatchewan National Event in Saskatoon, SK in June 2012:
Right Honourable Joe Clark, PC CC
Sir Sidney Mead
James V. “Jim” Scarrow, S.O.M.
Honorary Witness inducted at Revitalizing Reconciliation Event in Manitoba — A Cross-Cultural Dialogue on November 6, 2012:
The Honourable Philip S. Lee, CM, OM
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the Québec National Event in Montréal in April 2013:
Right Honorable Paul Martin, P.C.
Maine Wabanaki, State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Represented by Sandy White Hawk)
Québec Native Women / Femmes autochtones du Québec (Represented by Vivianne Michel)
Honorary Witnesses inducted at the BC National Event in Vancouver in September, 2013:
Naty Atz Sunuc
Hon. Charles Cunliffe Barnett
Hon. Judith Guichon, OBC
Chief Robert Joseph
Dr. Daniel Pauly
Hon. Stephen Point, OBC
Mayor Gregor Robertson
Hon. Chuck Strahl
NCTR’s spirit name – bezhig miigwan, meaning “one feather”.
Bezhig miigwan calls upon us to see each Survivor coming to the NCTR as a single eagle feather and to show those Survivors the same respect and attention an eagle feather deserves. It also teaches we are all in this together — we are all one, connected, and it is vital to work together to achieve reconciliation.