Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has a clean slate with the resignations last of its two remaining commissioners.
Jane Brewin Morley and Claudette Dumont-Smith said in a joint statement last Friday that they're throwing the doors open to new commissioners to ensure the TRC's success.
"We have... concluded that the best way forward for a successful Truth and Reconciliation Commission process is with a new slate of Commissioners," they said in the statement. "We have become convinced that the time has come for us to step aside and let others take on this demanding but rewarding mission."
The TRC, which began its work June 1, was established as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the biggest class action settlement in Canadian history. It's been given a five-year mandate to hear residential school survivors tell their stories and have them entered into Canadian history.
The commission has since become unraveled after in-fighting erupted amongst the three commissioners. TRC Chair Harry LaForme, a justice with the Ontario Court of Appeal, resigned his post in late October, saying the other two commissioners wouldn't recognize his authority as chair.
He said in a prepared statement that Morley and Dumont-Smith were "competing for control" of the commission and saw the TRC as "primarily a truth commission."
The TRC's first national event was initially planned for January in Vancouver, but that has since been postponed until the commission can find another chair, said a TRC spokeswoman.
Morley and Dumont-Smith defended their work in their statement, saying they remain "profoundly committed" to the TRC process and that LaForme's comments would not be of any benefit to that process.
"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," they wrote.
Justice Frank Iacobucci, a former judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, has since been contracted to facilitate a selection committee to decide who will next oversee the TRC's activities.
He said in a statement that the commissioners resigned because "they believe that making a fresh start is in the best interests of furthering the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."
While a first in Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have been employed throughout the world in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and East Timor.
Residential schools were born out of a policy of assimilation adopted by the Canadian government in 1857. Children from First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities were rounded up by government agents and placed in Church-run schools that aimed to distance them from their cultures, "stamp out" their languages and educate them about a more "Canadian" way of life.
Survivors' accounts have often stressed physical, psychological and sexual abuse by the people that ran the schools.
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