Survivors’ Flag a symbol of ‘love and kindness,’ former MLA says

Flag dedicated to residential school survivors to fly over Parliament Hill for two years

Former Nunavut MLA Levinia Brown presents a Survivors’ Flag to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller on Parliament Hill Monday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A new flag flies over Parliament Hill — an orange and white banner dedicated to survivors of Canada’s residential schools

On Monday, the Survivors’ Flag was raised in a ceremony attended by dozens of survivors and their families, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several MPs and cabinet ministers.

First unveiled by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021, the flag honours the people and communities impacted by residential schools.

It will be a fixture on Parliament Hill for the next two years.

At the ceremony, several of the survivors who contributed to the flag design spoke including Levinia Brown, the former Nunavut MLA for Rankin Inlet South—Whale Cove, herself a survivor of the residential school system.

Wearing her amauti parka despite the humid Ottawa weather and temperatures pushing 30 C, Brown shared what she hopes visitors to Parliament Hill take away from seeing the flag.

“I thank everyone who makes the effort to listen to what the survivors say,” she said. “My hope is that people will choose love and kindness to break the limitations and hurt imposed on those who cannot speak for themselves.

“My hope is also that everyone sees the Survivors’ Flag as a symbol of choosing love and kindness.”

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their communities and families and sent to residential and day schools in Canada from the late-1800s through the 1990s.

Many children suffered abuse there, or never returned home.

Several of the speakers acknowledged the flag’s location on the Hill, which is near the West Block, the temporary home of the House of Commons while construction takes place. Visitors can see it from all parts of the lawn, and MPs will see it as they head to the House of Commons.

Trudeau acknowledged the significance of the location during his remarks and thanked survivors for sharing their stories.

“Our cabinet room is overlooking this flag, so we will be able to — as we deliberate on the important path forward of this country — be reminded that every child matters,” he said.

“This flag is going to be a very important thing on this parliamentary precinct.”

Piita Irniq, a residential school survivor who presented Pope Francis a drum during the pontiff’s visit to Iqaluit last month, was one of several Inuit in attendance at the ceremony in Ottawa on Monday.

Saying he feels “relieved” a month after the papal visit, Irniq said he was happy to see the flag raised on Parliament Hill.

“It is very important to remember all those young people who were buried,” Irniq said. “Canadians have a responsibility to remember what happened.”

The ceremony included singing and drumming performances, as well as a prayer by elder Claudette Commanda.

In a press conference that followed the ceremony, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller responded to a question about why the flag will only be on Parliament Hill for two years.

“I think the idea was how do we commemorate, in a more permanent fashion, this ongoing search for truth,” Miller said.

“In my mind, the flag should fly for as long as it takes, but this was the idea behind it, was to have it for a temporary period and we landed on two years.”

Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, said she would love to see the fly for longer.

However, she said, it will likely be included as part of a residential school memorial that will eventually be opened in Ottawa.

Scott said all Canadians are welcome to acquire a Survivors’ Flag of their own, but they should do it with a commitment to learn and work toward the path of reconciliation.

“It is absolutely crucial that we work together, and in memory, every day look at that flag and say that there’s respect, honour, and we’re going to work together moving forward,” Scott said.

  • The Survivors' Flag is seen here flying on Parliament Hill after a flag-raising ceremony on Monday. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier)
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(20) Comments:

  1. Posted by Colin on

    No one says there was no abuse at residential schools, although it’s nothing compared with what happens in Canada’s hell-hole prisons. They have far more Indigenous inmates, about 15,000, than at peak enrolment in residential schools.

    Orthodoxy today doesn’t permit the saying of anything good about residential schools although TRC’s six volumes balance that narrative. They don’t mention any of the following attendees: Sheila Watt-Cloutier wrote in her memoirs that the three happiest of her teenage years she spent at the school in Churchill. Or federal cabinet ministers Ethel Blondin, Leona Agluukak and Len Marchand. He graduated from the school in Kamloops where the false news arose that there were 215 burials—with not a single one actually found. The worst Len wrote about that school in his memoirs was the potatoes they served were mushy. And how many territorial premiers? Count them! And world famous architect Douglas Cardinal. And Tomson Highway, the accomplished playwright, novelist, classical pianist, and Order of Canada recipient said this to Huffington Post in a 2015 interview, “All we hear is the negative stuff; nobody’s interested in the positive, the joy in that school. Nine of the happiest years of my life, I spent at that school. . .”

    It’s simply not true that 150,000 children were abducted from their homes although some were, as from Rae Lakes, NWT, where there was no other school. For many schools there was more demand than available spaces. And a high proportion of attendees were orphans or children like the late Alookto Ipellie, from Iqaluit, whose parents abused him horrendously.

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    • Posted by oh ima on

      typical dismissing the horrible conditions indigenous children had to experience. A small number of experiences were good but that was way less than what the majority experience. There are horrific experiences, where children were physically abused and sexually abuse by the sick beings on earth.

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        • Posted by oh ima on

          Don’t just say wake up, you sound like a Trucker Convoy supporter, without explaining what wake up means.

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            • Posted by Try Again on

              Meaningless document promoted by lefty, Liberal, Wokeist idealogues.

              Not worth the paper it is written on. Should have been written by those less biased, that is for sure.

              Wake up! Read the criticisms of the downright lies in that report. Oh wait, we can’t critically examine such things in Canada, the censorship brigade would be all over you.

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      • Posted by Panic at the disco on

        Big panic, the narrative is under threat! Quick, pull out the shame gun, silence the witch!

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    • Posted by Silas on

      Wow, you mentioned 6 or 7 well educated indigenous people who may or may not have been abused.
      This commemoration is about the other thousands who are not famed, who didn’t enjoy their time at residential school, those who never made it home. Those who were actually plucked away from their parents. Yes, some have become successful, however, the majority have suffered since their abduction. The jails that you mention are a testament to that.
      The days that this is commemorating were a very different time and the prejudices have been reduced or have become hidden; yet every once in a while in this day and age shows its ugly head.

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    • Posted by Southerner in the North on

      It’s a darn shame that all those kids that died at residential school, and adults who committed suicide as a result of their traumatic experiences at residential school, didn’t leave us happy little stories about how carefree and lovely their experiences were. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic).

      At the same time, let’s create a website where Catholic alter boys can reminisce about the doors opened for them from that experience to counter the negativity of the victims of serial child rapists. (Also sarcasm).

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    • Posted by monty sling on

      Prison inmates are there because of their own bad choices, residential school survivors didn’t have any chooses…Goodness, gullible writer…

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    • Posted by Umingmak on

      What an absolutely despicable comment.

      Residential schools were an attempt at straight-up genocide, and not a single positive thing can be said about them. It’s disgusting to even try to frame them as a good thing.

      People end up in prison because they commit crimes. They deserve to be where they are. Those poor children – thousands upon thousands of whom died at the hands of the Catholic Church in those despicable “schools” – did not do anything to deserve their fate.

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    • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

      have you ever taken a ptsd inventory? One of the sections looks at having witnessed or knew of abuse and being powerless to do anything as having impacts on one’s life.

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  2. Posted by Repent! on

    Sssh, you are speaking against the orthodoxy, you must repent!

    Seriously though, the country has become so oppressive and intolerant that I worry where we are headed.

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  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    Some teachers, hostel supervisors nuns, priests etc…. were monsters who did horrible things to children, others acted in ways which were totally the norm a hundred years ago eg flogging, straps, caning etc….. Today however, they are against the law in most jurisdictions across Canada but are in fact still practiced in other countries. The key point here is that a systemic plan was put in place to take the native out of the kid and “assimilate” them into Canadian society. In doing so all of the indigenous nations across Canada pretty much lost their traditional languages and cultures, and worse there were many who were abused terribly sexually, physically, emotionally in the process, There are a handful who had great experiences in these schools and went on to become successful in their chosen fields. Great!. But there were many more who were broken by this experience and we are still trying to pick up the pieces today. I often imagine what it might have been like if they had just left us alone to live as we always had.

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    • Posted by Some Perspective on

      Assimilation has long be the historic norm around the world, and is still the norm in most places.

      We don’t yet know whether this multi-cultural experiment of Canada will work – I often have my doubts, but I will not live long enough to see the results.

      Regardless, Canada is very unusual and leading the pack in acknowledging the harms done by assimilation, even if it was the accepted and expected behaviour of the day.

      I dare you go to most countries and speak against it and see what results you get.

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  4. Posted by Name Withheld on

    Those that attended residential school and were abuse as children suffered the pain they kept inside until the end. Their children were affected as well, and their children as it does not stop…

    You come into this world where you are loved but yet growing up you are told that you have the wrong color hair, skin etc.

    You are reminded that you are dumb if you don’t know proper english🥺,

    That you are a savage as you ate food from the land raw, the list goes on…

    Government of Canada play a role trying to dissolve a culture/race within the Indigenous, where the Catholic collected money from the GOC in helping them do so…

    Government of Canada paid millions of dollars to the survivors, have name Indigenous to roles that has never been held by Indigenous.

    In Nunavut they partnered in creating Pilimmaksaivik in hiring Inuit to GOC federal work force.

    Is this enough? I have to say no as I still witness the same words being echo by others although it’s not coming from the GOC or Catholic church.

    Racism exist in Nunavut and it’s more visible in the larger communities and it only seems to be getting worst, especially with Facebook

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    • Posted by You Are Correct on

      You are absolutely correct. When are we going to start speaking of the horrible way in which so many Inuit, particularly in the larger centres, treat other people of colour? It is a huge problem.

      Why do the Inuit kids throw rocks at the Pakistanis and Nigerians, but not the European descended? Are they selective in their hate? It confuses me.

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    • Posted by jawbones on

      Little Children who slept with their parents and siblings in the same bed taken away, not in cages that other Cultures used to keep their Children to sleep alone in.
      Little innocent Children who were traumatized so much and suffered for it as they were taken away and treated unlike people but animals. Could not defend themselves from others as they were too small or fighting was also foreign. Could not eat the food as it was foreign for them and cried their hearts for their parents day and night as they missed them so sickly much.
      Our Children were so pitiful during those years and here we have people with no hearts who oppose such narratives.

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  5. Posted by Angut on

    First commenter, Collin? you’re certainly a southerner who will minimize and try and distract what children went through. You must work for the department, trying to distract away from what the story is about. How do you sleep at night living that hateful dismissive life. You must be quite a hollow person to deny what children went through and trying to point out what is not in the article. You should rethink your life, Collin?

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  6. Posted by Angut on

    Remember, this prime minister on the first day of Indigenous people’s day to commemorate Indigenous children that went to residential schools. He could not be bothered to attend any Indigenous events. He chose to walk around on a beach and ignore invitations that he was sent from Indigenous people to attend. That says so much about him as well, Collin? Is that who you’re trying to distract for?

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