‘I wasn’t taught how to love’

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Kay Adams (left) is comforted by an unidentified woman during testimony Tuesday at the The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. — Transcontinental Media photo

When Kay Adams paused to take a breath before continuing her story, you could have heard a pin drop in the room full of people.

All the Inuk woman remembers about arriving at the school dormitory in North West River years ago was that no one was there to meet her.

She said she felt the loneliness for years afterwards.

“I wasn’t taught how to love. I wasn’t taught how to be a family. I knew none of that,” she said.

Adams lived at the dormitory for six or seven years after she was made a ward of the state in 1969.

“I learned there was always bigger kids, someone was always going to hit you and no one will protect you. Instead, I was told what a dirty little ’skimo I was. Then they proceeded to beat me or give another type of abuse.”

Other Inuit told her she wasn’t a real Eskimo because she didn’t speak the language. After she was kicked out of the dormitory at age 16, she made her way to Toronto.

“I was looking for somewhere to belong. I haven’t found that place yet.”

Adams has post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Tuesday and some residential school survivors told their stories for the first time.

The commission was established in 2008 after the first group of Canadian school survivors to go to court won their case.

Commissioner Marie Wilson said the commission was formed at the request of those survivors. It aims to document their experiences, help them heal, foster better relationships between aboriginals and non-aboriginals and educate all Canadians about the residential school experience.

“So this is not something that remains hidden as it has been in the past,” she said.

Francis Penashue, an Innu, told  of surviving abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s.

In a steady voice, he recounted a day when he mistakenly went to lunch at the wrong time.

“After our 15-minute break, I was called by name with another six people down to the garbage room.”

The priest was waiting there with a strap.

 Francis recalled watching the two boys ahead of him get 15 straps to each hand.

“After the first strap, he was on the floor crying. The priest said, ‘It doesn’t matter how much you cry, you are getting the 15 straps.’”

Penashue’s wife, Elizabeth, told her own story.

“I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday,” she said.

She said she was abused by a priest in her own community, and never told her parents.

Years later, she suffered even more when she learned a community priest had sexually abused three of her sons.

She went to see the bishop who was visiting the community.

“First when I talked to him, I looked him in the face, (it was) just like he don’t believe what I’m saying. … He smiled at me.”

She said she vowed she would never let the priest in her house again.

But two or three years later, a fourth of her sons told her he had been abused by a local priest, who was later moved out of the community and promoted.

“I don’t know how many years I kept it in,” Elizabeth said, her voice breaking.

“I’m ashamed. I’m scared. I’m worried about my children. I think all my life until I die it hurts me, and my husband and my children.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission continues its circuit in Hopedale Thursday and Friday.

The commission travels with trained counsellors to try to help survivors deal with some of their experiences.

The Labradorian


Truth and Reconciliation Commission — www.trc.ca

Organizations: Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Geographic location: North West River, Toronto, Happy Valley Goose Bay Hopedale

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Chie
    September 21, 2011 - 14:24

    True reconcialitaion is achieved when a just action takes place. The stories of the victims are truly devastating, ... mere pardon is not enough. Let justice flow like a river for these victims!

  • Mary
    September 21, 2011 - 12:59

    The church allowed these people to hide and is now trying to make amends. We must all try to remember that it was not the Church who abused but the person. It is too bad that those in the Church who were not abusers hid their heads in the sand for so many years. Today, we as people know better and are trying to fix so many wrongs. I, fortunately , was not abused and was brought up in the Catholic Church, I am not religious but did as a child follow the Catholic way of life as a matter of fact I knew Monsigneur(Bishop) Lahey personally. Do I make excuses for his horrilble life? no. Is it the Church's fault he is that way? no. It is him, the so called man. He used the church to hide, thank goodness he was found. I am so very sorry to all those who were abused at the hands of these horrible people. Shame on those who hide in any organization pretending to care when all they are doing is waiting for their chance to hurt someone.

    September 21, 2011 - 11:30

    I am not Catholic but I do understand what "Derrick" meant but it didn't come out in a nice way. I remember growing up and where I lived was mostly catholics and the "priest" was always held in high regard. Not sure what it is like now in the catholic church but people, a priest is JUST A COMMON MAN, nothing more nothing less... and I think the problem is that priests are not allowed to marry (so wrong and so outdated) and a lot of priests joined the priesthood if they were Gay, or pedophiles. Now, I'm not tarring all priests with this brush as I am sure there are priests that join for the right reason. I do know catholics that do not follow the church anymore because they are turned from this type of behaviour that was allowed. Again, this type of behaviour happens in ALL churches, not just Catholic but seems that more focus is on the catholic priest. Does not matter what type of religion - if a person of the "cloth" or ANYBODY for that matter does this sort of action, they should be punished! Bottom line!

  • taxpayertoo
    September 21, 2011 - 10:50

    I think Derrick was referring to the fact that most Catholics were brainwahed into believing that the priests were always right. There has indeed been other cases of abuse in other religions but there is by far way more in the Catholic religion. From what I can see there has also been alot more of a cover up with the priests as well, not to mention the fact that the Catholic religion is one of the richest in the world while most of their flock are the poorest, something terribly wrong with that picture. Actually with all the goings on in the church I am surprised that anyone would even want to defend it!!

  • Buffalo
    September 21, 2011 - 09:42

    @MR.MOM -Seems you already have your "Glorious Religion" .If being a Catho. worked for you and all your relative, were very glad for you. But the thruth of the matter is, the experience was different with us NAtive People.

  • Derrick
    September 21, 2011 - 09:07

    Mr. Mom....yes, abuse is everywhere but the Catholic Church is the absolute worst. Do you really know if your parents were abused or not? Probably not because the terror instilled by the almight Priest prevents so many more not to come forward.

  • carol ann rogers
    September 21, 2011 - 08:26

    I remember when Mt. Cashel story broke and the shock that such attacks were occuring by priest was unbelievable. There was a commission of women who drafted recommendations to help the church put a stop to the abuse of children. The church put the recommendations on a shelf and the abuse went on. Now this commission has been collecting data since 2008. Everyone knew about the terrible way native people were treated. Everyone tut tuted. No one stood up and said NO MORE! We must all accept our own part of this and all abuse rendered against children . Don't think so. Well, if your white your part of the problem, because your sure not part of the solution. There is only one place to be on this moral issue. On the side of the rightous. We the majority, the people who had voting rights, the ones who owned the stores, ran the schools, we collectively let this happen, by not being outraged enough! A society is judged by the way they treat the most vulnerable, less fortunate citizens. Take a moment to reflect. How did we do? Not so great. Today I feel ashamed to be white.

  • Red
    September 21, 2011 - 08:06

    It hurts my heart to know how much you all suffered and how much you continue to hurt. I wish you all peace and pure happiness for you and yours.

  • Derrick
    September 21, 2011 - 07:22

    Another example of the almighty Priest. Seems like they were born and bred to abuse any way they please.....and fully supported by the Catholic Church. I'm so glad to wake up every day knowing none of my family are Catholic and never had to deal with such abuse.

    • Mr.Mom
      September 21, 2011 - 08:34

      @ Derrick- How hypocritical are you. You are glad you are not Catholic !!! I am a catholic as well as my parents and their parents. We weren't sexually abused nor did we sexual abuse another person. So what you are trying to say is that if you are Penecostal or Anglican or any other religion that sexual abuse doesnt happen in any other religion ??? Well if thats the case, can I be part of your glorious religion.