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Canada to build $88.5M National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ‘international learning lodge’

Click to play video: 'Canada to build $88.5M National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ‘international learning lodge’'
Canada to build $88.5M National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ‘international learning lodge’
Shovels broke ground Wednesday where a new, permanent National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation will stand on the University of Manitoba grounds – Nov 9, 2022

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller announced Wednesday a new, permanent National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) will be built in Winnipeg to support residential school survivors, further research into the children who didn’t come home and educate Canadians and others about the residential school system and ongoing impacts of colonialism on Indigenous people.

The 2022 federal budget committed $60 million for the building and community-led efforts to locate, identify and commemorate children who went missing or died at residential schools. The government also pledged to turn over all federal documents related to residential schools to the NCTR.  The new building will house those.

On Wednesday, Miller announced an additional $28.5 million over five years for the NCTR to continue collecting, reviewing, and making residential school records accessible to the public, and supporting community-led efforts to locate and identify unmarked graves. This includes support for the National Residential School Student Death Register, the online National Cemetery Register, and the National Advisory Committee on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.

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“As more residential school records are turned over from the federal government and churches and as we continue the work to bring the missing children home, this funding will help fulfill our vision of a new home to serve survivors and their families, and work with the many nations that need their records in their hands,” said Stephanie Scott, executive director of the NCTR.

The new facility will be built on land donated by the University of Manitoba, on Treaty One territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. It will house millions of records, sacred items and survivor statements made to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“We’ll ensure that the truth about the residential school system can finally be told and be shared with Canadians and the world,” Scott said.

“It will be a place that survivors can call their own and welcome researchers and students from across Canada.”

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“We see this new home as an international learning lodge where survivors, their families and people across Canada and around the world come to hear and understand the truth about residential school institutions and the wider history of the colonialism.”

“This is about educating non-Indigenous Canadians,” Miller told the mostly Indigenous crowd gathered at the announcement. “Often it has been on your backs to educate people like me and it shouldn’t have to be. Yet it is the daily reality of your experience. But there’s still a lot of ignorance and work to do.”

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The House of Commons recently unanimously agreed to recognize the residential school system as an act of genocide .

Miller said something that stuck with him from a previous visit to the current NCTR — an old building on the university campus — is that some survivors struggle to enter the building “because it reminds them of — I guess because of the Victorian architecture … their experience in the residential school system, and that’s unacceptable.”

The new space will be “welcoming and user-friendly” he said, as “more truths are revealed.”

Elder Eugene Arcand, a Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan who spent nine years at the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Duck Lake and two years at the St. Paul’s Lebret Students Residence, was on hand for the announcement.

“In the future there will be fewer survivors. That’s why it’s important to have a home where we can preserve our truths for future generations,” Arcand said.

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