"I really believe we are on the road towards reconciliation," she says. "We have a long ways to go. It's not going to happen all of a sudden, but I feel individuals are grasping it. Universities are grasping it. Churches are beginning to grasp it."
What gives Victor hope was the massive public response to a week-long gathering in Vancouver in mid-September of the government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its mandate is to try to heal wounds that still exist more than a century and several generations later.
In an unusual move, Trinity and three other Lower Mainland universities cancelled classes on September 18 so that students, faculty and staff could attend the TRC event.
Victor says that decision came as a "total surprise" to the 70 or so aboriginal students on campus.
Fourth-year arts student Cheri Brown, a member of the Nisga'a band in northern B.C., found the experience "so meaningful, so moving."
"The heart of the event was the survivors," she says. "We were there essentially to give them respect and the opportunity to grieve publicly. Just having the people tell their story, that really came home for me."
Brown also "really appreciated" that the four Churches responsible for running the schools—Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and United—were on hand with their archives and sharing circles. "They were even offering face-to-face apologies to the survivors who were open to doing that," she says.
One goal of the event was to add to the permanent historical record of the residential schools by taking statements from survivors and putting names to faces in photo albums.
"There was one binder that just said 'Unknown.' They didn't know which school it was from," says Brown. "That gave me chills. I thought, 'Those faces have been left without names too long.' The fact that's being addressed really honours what they went through."
Non-aboriginal students told Victor they too had been impacted in similar ways. "They read about it in a textbook," she says, "but never really put a face to it or realized this is still impacting aboriginal people."
Many churches also interrupted their normal schedules to take part in the gathering. On the final day, a Sunday, a Walk for Reconciliation was held through downtown Vancouver—and most Anglican and United churches cancelled their worship services and other churches adjusted their service times so Christians could join in the walk.
An estimated 70,000 people in total turned out.
"For lots of us, myself included, we heard about the residential schools and said, 'It's their problem,'" says Peter Elliott, rector of Christ Church Cathedral. "By having us all come out, we're saying, 'No, it's an issue for all of Canadian society.'"