A national monument dedicated to survivors and victims of Canada’s residential school system will be built “in a highly visible location in Ottawa,” the federal government announced Friday.
The design of the monument will be determined by what the government is calling a “survivor-led steering committee,” which will include survivors of residential schools and intergenerational trauma.
“Survivors will play a central role in this initiative, which will focus on documenting the truth, achieving reconciliation, and healing past and existing wounds,” said Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, in a media statement.
The monument will provide visitors with opportunities “to express grief, and to heal and learn,” said Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez in the media release announcing the project.
“Indigenous people and all Canadians will be able to gather to mourn and honour survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities,” he said.
The landmark 2015 report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for a national monument.
The government pledged $20 million for the creation of the monument in August 2021, following the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill became a de facto monument to those victims and survivors last summer, when hundreds of pairs of children’s shoes, clothing and toys were placed around the flame. The site also became a gathering point for protests against the government’s historic role in the system.
Marie Wilson, who served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, criticized the government in March for moving too slowly on the project.
“When you have aging survivors who are passing every day, that’s one more survivor who will never see a national monument to the extent that that is one of their legacies,” she said.
The steering committee for the new monument is set to hold its first meeting in May to discuss the project.
The committee will then start work on selecting a site and launching a design process. A planned completion date has not been set.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by recent reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.