Jun 6/98: Residential school victim seeks healing


Globe and Mail
June 6, 1998
Robert Matas

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Vancouver - Nisga'a native Marlon Watts was six years old when he was taken away from his family in 1964 and placed in a residential school in the town of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Over the next three years, Mr. Watts said yesterday, he was sexually assaulted on several occasions by a United Church of Canada supervisor at the school. When he complained, he was whipped. His mouth was washed out with soap whenever he spoke the Nisga'a language.

For years, neither the United Church, which ran the school, nor the federal government, which paid the bills and set the standards, would accept responsibility for what happened to Mr. Watts and several other children at the school. Although the supervisor has been convicted of the sex crimes and is now serving an 11-year sentence, Mr. Watts felt that his wounds would not heal until those who were supposed to be taking care of him were held accountable.

Now, he hopes a BC court decision holding both the government and the church liable will become the foundation for a new beginning. Mr. Watts said he would like Ottawa and the church to negotiate with the Port Alberni victims on measures to help them regain their lives, including job training and programs to revive their native culture. At what price? Mr. Watts, a drug and alcohol counsellor, was reluctant to put a price tag on his suffering. But in response to questioning, he said he thought he was entitled to somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million. "It's not just about money," he quickly added. "I'm still ashamed to speak my own language.

A court hearing is scheduled for August to deal with the amount of the compensation. Mr. Watts added that he has been plagued with health problems ever since leaving the school. He has received extensive counselling for post traumatic disorder, he said. He still has nightmares and he is afraid of those in authority, he added. Lawyer David Paterson, who acted for two other abuse victims from the school, said yesterday that he expects both the church and Ottawa to acknowledge their responsibility and negotiate a settlement with all of the Port Alberni victims.

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