Saskatchewan Residential School monument in the works
- Julia Peterson | February 04, 2021
The Government of Saskatchewan will build a monument at Government House to honour the people impacted by the residential school system.
The project is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 82, which calls for the installation of a monument in each Canadian capital to honour residential school survivors and the children who were lost to their families and communities.
Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty hopes the monument will be a space for learning and healing.
“We as a society collectively need to acknowledge that residential schools existed (and) their ongoing impacts on Indigenous people and, as an extension, the broader society,” he said. “It’s so important that we have something physical where people can come and remember or contemplate or learn.. I think that’s the greatest challenge when we talk about relationships - it’s about coming to an understanding of who we are and how we all contribute to this place, this province and this country.
“By being able to present something that generates that kind of thinking and conversations, I think we’ll all be better for it.”
The design is in progress and Mirasty will continue consulting with residential school survivors, their families and Elders throughout the winter. Construction details will be finalized following these discussions, but Mirasty is starting to get a sense of what people want to see.
“We want this to be more than just a physical structure,” Mirasty said. “This will be a place where people can come through and contemplate and think, maybe even pray. There’s been some idea of having a spiritual aspect of it, because of the close ties to Indigenous communities.”
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Heather Bear says she is looking forward to seeing the monument and hopes it will serve as a lasting reminder of a painful history.
“These kinds of memorials to honour and remember the contributions and the suffering that has happened… through that, we find ourselves being acknowledged. I think it’s very important and relevant to our people.
“I am a residential school survivor, and it does mean something to me. It’s relevant,” she said.
She says the location of the monument on the grounds of Government House is critically important.
“I’m very pleased it will be placed at Government House because it was their mistake, their transgressions,” she said. “And this says, ‘Okay, we are taking some accountability here.’ And through this monument, hopefully we can move towards more healing.
“The residential schools did so much damage to our people, but we’re working hard in the name of healing. And part of healing is acknowledging that, ‘government, you have made mistakes. You have failed our people.’ We’ve had apologies, but this is a reminder of our history, and will honour and remember those who aren’t here.”