Plans in the works for memorial at former Winnipeg residential school

A piece of land at the former Assiniboia Residential School in Winnipeg could soon host a memorial featuring the names of all the students who attended. Joe Scarpelli/Global News

A piece of land at the site of Winnipeg’s former Assiniboia Residential School might soon be home to a memorial acknowledging its history.

The Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group, which is a group made up of survivors and community members, is responsible for the project.

Andrew Woolford, a University of Manitoba sociology professor and legacy group board member, said it’s important to ensure people always know what went on at the location.

“Many neighbours in River Heights didn’t even know about the school’s existence and many people in Winnipeg did not know that there was a residential school in that neighbourhood during that era of 1958 – 1973,” Woolford said.

Read more: ‘Not something you can get over’: Survivors, youth reflect on lasting residential school impacts

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The land for the project, located at 621 Academy Rd., is currently owned by the RCMP and could be sold to the City of Winnipeg for $1, should a new proposal be approved by council.

Woolford said plans for the site include naming each of the approximately 800 students who attended the school on bricks, which would be surrounded by markers indicating each of their communities.

Click to play video: '‘Every Child Matters Walk’ honours former residential school students on Canada Day'
‘Every Child Matters Walk’ honours former residential school students on Canada Day

There are also plans to create a pathway with benches and information panels telling the story of the site.

“Even though it’s alongside a busy road, it will be a place for some contemplation,” Woolford said.

Work on the project began a few years ago, but Woolford said the recent discoveries of unmarked graves in B.C. and Saskatchewan has drawn more attention to the work his group is doing.

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Read more: Manitoba pledges $2.5 million toward residential school searches

Cecil Sveinson, manager of Indigenous relations for the City of Winnipeg, said the legacy group would be in charge of the project and that the city would only be responsible for maintenance as it is for other city-owned parks.

“It’s really important that the survivors guide efforts like this,” Sveinson said. “You’ll hear this consistently in working with the community: ‘Nothing for us, without us,’ and that’s the approach that we have taken.”

The proposal for the land will be discussed at a city hall meeting on Tuesday.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access the 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.


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