The University of British Columbia announced today (September 12) that it is beginning the construction of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.
The $5.5-million two-storey building, funded by donors, is scheduled to be completed in the 2017-18 school year. It will be approximately 6,500 square feet and be located between Koerner Library and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.
It is being developed in collaboration with the Indian Residential School Survivor Society and in consultation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
The centre will focus on the history and experiences of residential school students, including survivors as well as the estimated 6,000 children who died while in attendance.
At the centre, former students and their families will be able to access the records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Also, interactive displays will allow students and visitors to learn from records and testimonies about the history and impact of the residential schools on indigenous populations.
In particular, the centre will concentrate on the experience of West Coast indigenous people in B.C., where most of the schools were located.
“Through both policy and inaction, the circumstances of indigenous peoples have often been invisible in all but the most superficial ways," UBC First Nations House of Learning director Linc Kesler stated in a news release. "It is a responsibility of the university and the educational system as a whole to change that and provide the basis for more informed interactions.”
The centre will serve as a West Coast affiliate for the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.
“Recognition of our past is of critical importance to UBC and to all Canadians in planning our future," UBC President Santa Ono stated. "The centre will help us to collectively rethink the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in this country.”
Canada's Indian residential school system began in the 1800s and forced approximately 150,000 indigenous children to relocate from their homes into religious boarding schools in an attempt to assimilate indigenous people. There, many children faced physical and sexual abuse, or were used as human test subjects in experiments about nutrition and other areas of research.
The last such school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan.