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There are thousands of intergenerational survivors’ stories — this is mine

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This story is part of CBC North’s series Children of Survivors | Impact of residential schools. This week we’re highlighting the stories of several children of residential school survivors and the effect intergenerational trauma has had on their lives. 

My name is Sharon Shorty and I am from Whitehorse. I am the child of residential school survivors.

The impact of residential school is intergenerational, and I am in the first generation to feel the effects of this trauma. My parents, aunts and uncles, and one brother attended residential schools in the Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta.

My mother Winnie Peterson is a Tlingit woman. She lost access to stories, her language, traditional beliefs and practices like sewing because of residential school.

Black and white pictures of my mother, late father, and her sisters at Yukon’s Baptist Mission School in a book called Finding Our Faces, which acknowledges the survivors and what they endured: separation from family, bullying from other students, and loss of their culture.

A photo of residential school students on the cover of the book Finding Our Faces. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty)

In the book, she shares: « I wasn’t quite six years old and, 64 years later, I am finally starting to deal with the issues. »

I see this as the start of my story.

When I was in Grade 4 she left me with her sisters (my aunties) to flee to B.C. from an abusive relationship with my father. It was a traditional practice to leave me with my aunties, and I thank God she did it and for their support.

Before that, life at home was confusing.

I felt alone and lonesome growing up. I didn’t understand where my dad’s anger and hurtful words toward me came from.

My dad, the late Joe Shorty, was angry a lot and it was scary.

My mom was sad a lot. I felt alone and lonesome growing up. I didn’t understand where my dad’s anger and hurtful words toward me came from.

I also liked to go to church as a child and my dad would mock me for it. There was very little affection in the home. I did not know that since my parents didn’t grow up with their families, they didn’t learn parenting skills.

Years later as a new mother, I struggled with being affectionate to my son. I felt that part of the syndrome can be beaten though, and I learned to show my feelings. But it takes a lot of strength.

Healing through humour

As a storyteller, playwright and comic, I have turned to humour for 20 years.

Winnie Peterson, Sharon Shorty’s mother, in residential school. This photo is in the book Finding Our Faces. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty)

During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, Chief Justice Murray Sinclair asked me and my performing partner to do our comedy act, Gramma Susie and Charlie, at several national events.

He said survivors would need laughter during the difficult hearings.

In the routine, we dress as elders and share stories of life. I had discovered that recalling the wisdom and humour of our grandparents and aunties could be a way to reconnect the older and younger generations. It’s also a restorative and healing experience.

It was a privilege to be able to connect with survivors and listen to their stories. I was even more honoured to make people laugh, so they could heal a little more.

It was challenging to hear about the abuses in public, with so many people listening. I also went into a witnessing room and recounted my experiences as a young child, growing up among people who attended residential school.

It was a privilege to be able to connect with survivors and listen to their stories.

I witnessed the trauma of the generation before me.

During the events, there was a birthday party for survivors to acknowledge that their birthdays had never been recognized in residential school.

It was wonderful to see them childlike, enjoying the balloons, birthday cards and cupcakes. I took a cupcake for my late father.

It made me realize why we didn’t have many birthday parties as kids, and why it was so important for me to have parties for my son.

‘Reconciliation is a journey’

Sharon Shorty and Duane Aucoin in costume during a Gramma Susie and Charlie performance at the Dawson City Music Festival. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty)

When something new comes up in my life, I realize the impact intergenerational trauma has on me — my initial reaction is always fear and anxiety.

For example, I recently had to get a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea. Dealing with the specialist, who is an authority figure, adds to my stress.

When I feel sad in the fall — back-to-school time — it’s not just coming from me and my family but from the past seven generations and what they have gone through.

It has been proven that these memories get passed through our DNA and I totally believe that it can.

Sometimes life can become too much to handle, it overwhelms me a great deal and I feel lost. The reconciliation that I need to do is with the survivors in my life and my son. This is an ongoing process through private talks, sharing my story, and prayer.

When I was dating my husband, he invited me to church. It took me a long time to attend. It helped that it was the United Church and knowing it was one of the first churches to apologize to residential school survivors in 1986 — an act of reconciliation helped make me feel safe to go.

When I was at TRC events over the years, I noticed there were more intergenerational survivors than residential school survivors.

I would like to see more opportunities for us. I hope there are conferences, gatherings, and healing events for us to share and understand the impact it has had on the children.

Photos of Sharon Shorty’s relatives are in this book, Finding Our Faces, which acknowledges former students of Yukon’s Indian Mission School. (Submitted by Sharon Shorty)

I also hope other Canadians realize that reconciliation is for everyone, and that reconciliation is a journey.

When I say I get overwhelmed, it is because I often wonder if I’ll ever be healed from the intergenerational trauma of Indian residential school syndrome.

For my son, I hope it will be easier than what I’ve gone through.

He needs the second generation to be there to support and encourage him, and to stop the cycle of trauma, so healing can gradually grow over the generations.

To the survivors before me who have had the courage to share what they went through at residential school — I am really happy for that.

I’ve seen it make a difference in my life, that in their truth I can find my own ways to heal and to search for my own truth.

CBC North is hosting a panel discussion on this topic on Nov. 8 in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre at 7 p.m. It is open to the public.

If you need support, call the Yukon Distress and Support Line at 1-844-533-3030 or the Inuit and First Nations Hope and Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310.

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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