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Truth and Reconciliation Commission to release interim report

A commission set up to help First Nations heal from abuses says the residential school system was "an assault" on Aboriginal children, their families and their culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada will officially release its interim report this morning at Simon Fraser University's downtown Vancouver campus.

The report, as posted early today on some media websites, also states the schools "often were sites of instutionalized child neglect, excessive physical punishment, and physical, sexual and emotional abuse."

The commission finds that several generations of children were "traumatized" by being abused, witnessing abuse or being "coerced to participate in abuse."

About 150,000 Aboriginal children were forced to attend the schools, the first of which opened in the 1870s and the last of which closed in 1996.

The commission makes 20 recommendations in its interim report, including a call for all public schools to have residential school education material.

The report also asks the federal government to distribute a framed copy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's historic formal apology to residential school survivors.

It says the apology should be displayed prominently in every secondary school in the country and be delivered to every known residential school survivor.

Another recommendation calls for health and wellness centres to offer trauma and grief counselling for residential school survivors.

The report says residential schools damaged relations within Aboriginal families and communities and with the rest of Canadian society at large.

The commissioners conclude their report by saying they believe "these relationships can and must be repaired" and will require changes in the relationship between Aboriginal people and the federal government.

The interim report comes as the commission reaches the halfway mark in its five-year mandate. The commissioners are set to deliver their full report when their mandate expires in 2014.

The commission has already taken 25,000 statements from survivors, visited about 500 communities and has heard from about 100 former school employees.

Earlier this month, commission chairman Justice Murray Sinclair called the schools acts of genocide.

In January, one survivor testified he kept his hair short so abusers found it harder to grab him and bang his head against a wall.

For more from the Canadian Press, scroll down The Tyee's main page or click here. To watch a livestream of the report's release, click here.

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