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Stained-glass window unveiled as reminder of residential schools experience

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OTTAWA – Every time an MP enters or exits Centreblock on Parliament Hill, they will now be reminded of the legacy of residential schools.

A stained-glass window commemorating the legacy and Canada's 2008 apology was unveiled this morning. The window sits overtop the MPs’ entrance to Centreblock, and is prominently seen from the Foyer outside the House of Commons.

The Foyer is one of the most commonly seen spaces on the Hill, as it is where media scrums and interviews most often take place.

"This window signifies hope," said Christi Belcourt, the artist who designed the window.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan commissioned the piece more than a year ago. A committee made up of residential school survivors and aboriginal art experts chose from the designs submitted, and Duncan unveiled the winning design in June, on the fourth anniversary of the apology to survivors of the residential schools.

Residential schools were run by the churches for the federal government in a program designed to assimilate aboriginal children. More than 150,000 aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their families and enrolled in the schools between the late 1880s and the early 1980s. Many students later spoke of horrific physical, psychological and sexual abuse in the schools. The separation of children from their families and the abuses suffered are still blamed for many of the social problems facing aboriginal Canadians today.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of the government of Canada to residential school survivors in 2008. A compensation package for survivors was also issued.

Duncan said this morning the window is a powerful piece of art.

"This window is a beautiful and powerful reminder of the residential schools experience," he said.

Belcourt used the opportunity of her speech at the unveiling to remind the government of its obligation to aboriginal people and asked for it to ensure the health of aboriginal communities for generations to come. She said it’s not about money, but about reconciliation and encouraged movement on issues such as aboriginal language protection, resource revenue sharing and a national public inquiry into the disappearance and murder of hundreds of aboriginal women.

A description of the window can be found on the government website. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1332859355145/1332859433503

 

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

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