Have you ever heard of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Call to Action #82? Call to Action #82 challenges every province and territory to commission and install a “publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential School National Monument” in every capital city. The monuments are “to honour Residential School Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
Rising to the challenge, Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, the City of Toronto, and the Ontario Government collaborated to create Indian Residential School Survivor (IRSS) Legacy – Restoration of Identity, which is a campaign to complete Call to Action #82.
Recently, I attended Launch II of their campaign. I sat with some new friends, Sheila and Aliza. We watched the IRSS Legacy’s vision come to life through the IRSS Virtual Model Video. The video showed a beautiful setting surrounding a turtle sculpture that was inspired by the Indigenous creation story of Turtle Island. The turtle sculpture will sit beside Toronto’s City Hall for all residents and visitors to see. When finished, the turtle sculpture will be hard to miss at 9 feet high, 7 feet wide, and 9 feet long.
As a relative to Residential School Survivors, I have witnessed their struggles and tears. I also witnessed their strengths and I know that their spirits remain strong. The abuse and trauma that they fight to overcome is the result of the federal government’s racist education policy that forcibly cut 150,000 Indigenous children’s ties to their family, language, and culture and placed them in schools to assimilate them into western society. This monument acknowledges the harmful impacts on Survivors, the impacts on Intergenerational Survivors, and it reminds us never again.
However, too often we say never again without changing the conditions that led to cultural genocide. If we look at what is happening to Indigenous children today in the areas of child welfare, justice and mental health, to name a few, you may be shocked. For example, the number of Indigenous children in child welfare surpasses how many there were during the height of residential school. If we are to honour the Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities, we must also take care of the children who are here today.
Be part of Truth and Reconciliation! Read the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action that focus on addressing the impacts of the Indian Residential School System in the areas of Education, Justice, Child Welfare, Language and Culture, Health, and Reconciliation. See how you can incorporate them into your life or organization by going to the United Church Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice page.
Check out the Healing Fund page to learn how The United Church of Canada is helping Indigenous communities create healing, culture, and language initiatives.
—Honarine Scott is the Healing Programs Coordinator in the Indigenous Ministries Circle. Honarine is Omushkego Cree from Fort Albany First Nation.