UBC to Build Residential School History Centre

By Frank Larue

The University of British Columbia have made it official, they will build the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. The building will cost $5.5 million and will be located on the UBC campus. The IRSC will recognize the history and experiences of Residential School survivors and memorialize the indigenous children who did not survive the schools. The centre is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Plans for the centre currently under development: architect’s concept rendering.

Plans for the centre currently under development: architect’s concept rendering.

There will be access to the records of the Truth and Reconciliation act and the history of the Residential Schools and their effect on Indigenous people. Many non-native people have yet to understand the depravity and abuse native children went through in the Residential Schools. The centre will house interactive media, making not only records but also testimonies available for visitors to the centre. “While we are thankful for all the First Nations leadership and UBC leadership that have brought the initiative to reality,” Former Residential School student and executive director of the Indian School Survivor Society Cindy Tom-Lindley said, “the survivors and their families are first and foremost thankful for an accessible place of records.”

The Centre will be accessible to visitors and will serve as a hub for academic and community research, education and public programming. Director of the UBC First Nations House of Learning Linc Kesler told the media, “An important function of this centre is to acknowledge the lives and histories of Indigenous people in Canada. Throughout both policy and inaction, the circumstances of indigenous peoples have often been invisible in all but the most superficial ways. 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.”

Many of the Residential Schools were located in B.C. and there are tragic stories that would shed light on a dark period of Canada’s history. The fact that Residential Schools started in the late nineteenth century and weren’t closed until the middle of the twentieth century, even though the government parties were informed of the condition of native students attending these schools, is shocking in itself. No one lifted a finger while teachers took advantage of native students and the mortality rate was as high as 35% in certain schools. “Recognition of our past is of critical importance to UBC and to all Canadians in planning our future.” UBC President Santa Ono said. “The Centre will help us to collectively rethink the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country.”