The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) has unveiled a flag to honour residential school survivors.
“It’s an important symbol of bringing people together,” said Garnet Angeconeb, who is a survivor of Pelican Lake residential school in Sioux Lookout, Ont.
“Our people know that there are so many unanswered questions in relation to what happened at residential schools but what happened earlier this spring was just a validation of what Indigenous people have been saying all along.”
In late May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced preliminary findings of a ground penetrating radar search of the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school. Approximately 200 potential burial sites have been identified. Other searches are underway at sites across Canada.
The concept for the survivors’ flag emerged during a discussion on when it would be appropriate to raise the Canadian flag again after flags were lowered following the discovery at Kamloops, said Christine Lenze, who was the project lead.
“The project quickly grew into conversations with survivors individually, and this gave them space to share very personal experiences and thoughts around what messages the design should embody,” Lenze said.
The flag was designed during six weeks of consultation, discussion and collaboration with survivors from across Canada and the NCTR.
Concepts were sent to survivors for feedback and although not every idea could be included, Lenze said there were rich conversations around what was important to survivors and that made the project special.
There are nine elements to the flag that were selected by over 30 survivors involved in the consultations with NCTR.
One of the elements of the flag is the inukshuk, used as a navigational guide by Inuit and linked to their traditions.
Levinia Brown, an Inuk residential school survivor from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, said recognition of the children and their experiences has been a long time coming.
Brown said it’s important Inuit be included in reconciliation processes because they also experienced residential schools and federal day schools.
“The healing process seems to be coming slowly together, but it’s going to take some time,” she said.