Residential schools in spotlight at National Arts Centre

Ottawa institution hosting workshops and talks ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

An Indigenous justice protest marches down Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ont., on July 1. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa has announced a lineup of virtual programming this week to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

People can take part in workshops, listen to talks, take in reading lists and even use colouring books to learn about Canada’s residential school system.

“With more eyes and attention on the topic, we wanted to make sure that we were offering as much as we could, and it became much more of an institutional priority,” said Mairi Brascoupé, NAC’s Indigenous cultural resident and member of the Algonquin Anishinaabe First Nation, who helped plan the activities.

“I think it’s really sort of clicking for more people now.”

The activities, hosted by NAC Indigenous Theatre, are set to focus on the revitalization of Indigenous languages, beading, powwow dance, and land acknowledgements. There will also be discussions on how non-Indigenous people can become better allies to Indigenous communities.

They have been busy since early spring, but Brascoupé says that it became a major focus for NAC after the multiple discoveries of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the NAC was forced to close its doors for much of the past year and a half, and transition to hosting online performances and events.

Although the NAC has reopened and has been welcoming smaller audiences back for performances, the Truth and Reconciliation events are all virtual. Brascoupé says that the digital space allows the NAC to reach a wider audience, and that people can tune in anywhere across the country.

In addition to the events, the LED screens of NAC’s Kipnes Lantern will be lit in orange on Sept. 30. NAC has illuminated the lantern with the words “every child matters” since the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the formal residential school in Kamloops, B.C., earlier this year.

There are no events scheduled on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. Brascoupé says that she and her team will most likely use Sept. 30 as a day to reflect and spend time with their families.

Brascoupé says that she hopes people will tune in, take the time to learn, and use what they’ve learned in a way that helps support Indigenous people.

“I’m really happy that more people are actively learning and actively searching for ways that they can make better contributions to the Indigenous communities across the country,” she said. 

The activities are scheduled for Sept. 27 through 29.

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Reality on

    Words have lost their meaning. There was no “genocide”, folks. It’s mind boggling how much power activists have seized in shaping everyone’s distorted beliefs.

    The past was imperfect, just like the present is. Life was deeply flawed in aboriginal communities, just like it was at residential school. People from bygone days lived in their own times by their own standards, they didn’t follow ours, just as we don’t follow theirs.

    Modern medicine was not nearly as developed back then and lots of kids died before they reached adulthood, whether they died at home or at school. Almost all the trauma that kids have suffered over the years comes from their own families and communities.

    It’s nice to have a scapegoat in residential schools, but the ongoing trauma is committed by aboriginals on aboriginals. If you want to actually fix things, pretending it’s coming from the outside, especially outside institutions that closed down many decades ago, will not help.

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    • Posted by no question on

      Yeah it was an attempt at genocide. That’s not even up for debate.

      In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which defined the crime of genocide for the first time. Article II of the Convention defines genocide as…” any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

      (a) Killing members of the group;
      (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
      (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
      (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
      (e) ******Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.*******

      According to the Convention, “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” is the only prohibited act that ***does not lead to physical or biological destruction, but rather to destruction of the group as a cultural and social unit***. For example, the removal of children into boarding schools and white adoptive families to forcibly assimilate indigenous peoples of the Americas was commonplace in the United States and Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Boarding schools and adoptions were a means of the government to strip children from their families, and thereby their languages, cultures, ceremonies, and land; this was in service of governments’ missions to erase indigenous peoples from their land and its history.

      Obviously I copied and pasted that from Wikipedia, but I read the sources. Genocide doesn’t just mean straight up murder, like in Rwanda.

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      • Posted by no question on

        For the people who gave the comment a thumbs down, I’m not sure why you feel that way. This is literally how the U.N. defined and described genocide. You live in a country that belongs to the U.N. It makes me feel uncomfortable and weird because this isn’t what I was raised to believe, but it is what happened.

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        • Posted by Answer me this? on

          Oral histories tell us that when Inuit moved into what is now Nunavut, they killed and took the lands from the original inhabitants, the Tuniit. Does this also count as genocide to you?

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          • Posted by Bing on

            Why, in this comments section, does everyone get their back up about the fact that residential schools were a terrible thing. It’s like children when you point out the bad thing they just did, they wildly look around and point at another kid and say “well he did this other bad thing!”, as if that somehow makes the thing he did okay. If we use that logic, no wrongs anyone has done needs to be acknowledged. Residential schools were bad. They were a design to take the culture and anything that made indigenous people different out of them and control them. The governments don’t dispute that. So sure, let’s go back in time and talk about the horrible things that happened 800, 900 years ago. But first how about we deal with the people whose faces we can actually see and voices we can actually hear. How about we start with now and work our way back?

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            • Posted by Answer me this? on

              My question does not imply nor is it meant to deflect from the fact that residential schools were not a bad thing and that they did tremendous damage. They clearly did. Still, I do not agree that they constitute genocide.

              In light of the use of that term the question is meant to test the integrity of your comment (or, semantics). How sincere are you in following the definitions you’ve laid out?

              So, with that in mind, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would suffice.

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            • Posted by New Stamp on

              Dear Bing, why should we start at the present and work back? Why do you bias toward a reverse linear sequence? What is it’s purpose?

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  2. Posted by Let us be truthful on

    I agree with ” REALITY ” , in the most part, because of my own experiences.
    What “NO QUESTION” describes was happening to indigenous people by there own race
    way before residential schools.
    Why are “MMIWG” and “PAUKTUTIT” not making enquiries about the abuses that
    happened to INUIT and FIRST NATIONS people by their own relatives ?
    We demand people give us our rights, but we do not do it ourselves.

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    • Posted by no question on

      I wasn’t describing anything. That description came from the United Nations.
      Also you said ‘What “NO QUESTION” describes was happening to indigenous people by there own race way before residential schools.’ That’s an odd thing to say, because what we are talking about here is the rounding up of children by police and preists, cutting off their hair, assigning them new names, beating them to a bloody pulp if they spoke their language, rape by preists, burying dead children in unmarked graves and not telling the parents, telling them they will burn in hell, all to “kill the Indian, save the man” (a quote by an American champion of residential schools, but the sentiments were echoed by the Canadian system)…that sort of thing. Did indigenous people commit abuses and wrongs against their own people? Probably. Pretty much every has. But we aren’t talking about that. We are specifically talking about the weird crap that has to do with these schools. It’s ok to say it was wrong. It doesn’t mean you did it.

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      • Posted by Different Opinion on

        It was clearly wrong and should be acknowledged as such. But it was not genocide. In the same way that the tragedies that have happened to MMIW were not genocide.

        The goal of these schools, for example, was to assimilate and transform native children into good little Christians with European cultural values. We can recognize the atrocities that occurred under that regime, without calling them something they weren’t.

        For example, genocide is “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular race or nation.” (Oxford Dictionary). I simply don’t agree with the way the word has been re-tooled here in this context, mostly by people looking for dramatic effect.

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      • Posted by Different Opinion on

        It was clearly wrong and should be acknowledged as such. But it was not genocide. In the same way that the tragedies that have happened to MMIW were not genocide.

        The goal of these schools, for example, was to assimilate and transform native children into good little Christians with European cultural values. We can recognize the atrocities that occurred under that regime, without calling them something they weren’t.

        For example, genocide is “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular race or nation.” (Oxford Dictionary). I simply don’t agree with the way the word has been re-tooled here in this context, mostly by people looking for dramatic effect.

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        • Posted by no question on

          Also, this was a lovely, upbuilding article about how the National Arts Centre in Ottawa is going to do some awesome programming with various indigenous groups to show support. There was no mention of genocide. The first commenter (was that you?) saw the word “genocide” on a sign in the photo and used it as an opportunity to go on a rant.

          • Posted by Different Opinion on

            No, I am not the first commentor. Thanks for asking, I don’t care for their approach to this frankly.

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