Reading for reconciliation
- EFN Staff | November 29, 2016
A section of the Frances Morrison Central Library in Saskatoon has been dedicated to reconciliation. The section is packed with books by Indigenous authors and others with topics ranging from fiction to poetry, to history and residential schools. In a prominent location in the front of the library, a box wrapped in red cloth is in a window display that can be seen from inside and out. A ceremonial smudge and prayer from Elders Walter and Maria Linklater helped launch the official opening.
“As an active member of Reconciliation Saskatoon, the Library has firmly committed to answering many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Our work in is intended to bring all members of our community together as we acknowledge the past and move forward toward reconciliation to promote healing and ultimately make our city, province and country stronger,” said Carol Cooley CEO and Director of Libraries for Saskatoon Public Library. “Today we fulfill a promise we made to residential school survivor Eugene Arcand, to create a space dedicated to reconciliation in the library”
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The reading section came about from a gift and request from Eugene Arcand. Arcand was presented with 5 complete sets of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions report and Calls to Action and books. So far Arcand has donated boxes to SaskPolytechnic, the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Board and the Saskatoon Public School Board. He donated this box to the library because of the important role they play in public education. “This is precedent setting in this province,” said Arcand of the Read for Reconciliation section. “The residential school story will be told by them. Bearing witness to this kind of a legacy is about building public education and understanding. Status quo can’t prevail. And the Library is walking the talk.”
The Saskatoon Library has embraced reconciliation. They are partners in Reconciliation Saskatoon, all of their employees have been through Aboriginal awareness seminars and they have recently named the Stonebridge outlet the Round Prairie Branch in honour of Métis people who lived in that area since the 1860’s .
Mayor Charlie Clark was on hand for the dedication. “There is a grassroots discussion to help us come to terms with the failure of society with the residential schools. Credit to the Library to take this space for learning and reflection in a safe space,” said Mayor Clark. “My hope is that Saskatoon is the place that is learning and growing and building a community based on reconciliation. This is an important time for our city. We can feel proud and hopeful for years to come.”
To officially open the section, Arcand invited his fellow residential school survivors Harry Lafond, Kelly Bitternose, Walter Linklater and Maria Linklater from the audience to join him in cutting the birch bark. “I never thought in my life we would deal with the residential schools. But this reading section is a call to action,” said Arcand. “The best part of this opening was having my fellow survivors here. Little things mean a lot.”
The Read for Reconciliation space holds SPL’s growing collection of Indigenous literature and will host programming focused on healing, truth and reconciliation in Saskatoon. SPL’s Read for Reconciliation booklist is available at www.saskatoonlibrary.ca/reconciliation.