Remembering the Past: A Window to the Future

l to r: President Clément Chartier, Angie Crerar, Yvette & Stirling Ranville, and Gloria Laird

President Chartier participated in a Dedication Ceremony of the stained glass window held in the Centre Block of the House of Commons this morning. At the ceremony the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and the Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons, were joined by artist Christi Belcourt, elders, former Indian Residential Schools students, Aboriginal leaders and invited guests in a moving ceremony.

On June 11, 2008, thousands of Canadians from across the country along with former students and Aboriginal leaders witnessed the Prime Minister’s historic apology for the abuse experienced by many who attended Indian Residential Schools and the impact this system had on Aboriginal languages and culture.

In 2011, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced as a gesture of reconciliation that the legacy of Indian Residential Schools would be commemorated through a permanent installation of stained glass artwork in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill. Following the announcement, a five member selection committee of Aboriginal art experts was established to oversee the artist selection process. This group invited a number of Canadian Aboriginal artists to submit designs but ultimately selected the design submitted by Christi Belcourt, the daughter of Métis rights leader Tony Belcourt.

Ms Belcourt’s design, a two-paneled window with multiple components and narratives, more than matches the criteria. Her artwork depicts the story of Aboriginal people with their ceremonies, languages and cultural knowledge intact. The left panel of the design illustrates the darkness of the residential school era, as well as an awakening symbolized by a sounding drum. The top segment highlights the 2008 apology and Canada’s commitment to reconciliation. The right panel celebrates Aboriginal peoples’ healing through dance, ceremony and language – a testament to their resilience into the present day.

“It meant more than the apology,” said Angie Crerar (Grand Prairie MNA Local President and Indian residential school survivor), “a very special day, very meaningful and emotional. To truly honor the memories of the trauma of residential school, the first step to healing ourselves, the tainted glass window took me to another level of dealing with so many issues. To honour, to celebrate the memories, to remember with great love and respect and carry in our hearts, to teach and always move forward to a better future, the past will guide us into a positive and good life for all”.

“I always appreciate the promotion of awareness that these events portray of the tragedy of Aboriginal Residential Schools” said Stirling Ranville. (Indian Residential school survivor from Manitoba).

“Something was missing on this wonderful day”, said Louis Bellrose (Indian residential school survivor from Alberta), “the day students did not get recognition, did not get their money or healing. Please try to get justice for them”.

“It was an honour and I am most grateful to have been part of the ceremony. It was very emotionally draining, I prayed for all the young ones, babies, youth; all children who died and were buried in unmarked graves without a funeral or acknowledgement of when and how they died. I thought of and prayed for all the suffering and continued impact on our families and communities. I prayed for all the youth in care who I work with, who are without parents or families, because of drugs, alcohol and other abuses. It was a very powerful and moving day and I thank MNC most sincerely for providing me with this opportunity’ stated Gloria Laird (Indian residential school survivor from Alberta).

“Although they are few, former Métis students of Indian residential schools need our nation’s recognition and support for what they endured” stated President Chartier who accompanied the four former Indian residential school students to the ceremony. “For the majority of the Métis Nation citizens who attended residential or boarding schools not yet recognized by the government of Canada, we can only hope that one day we will be accorded the same treatment of apology, settlement and reconciliation” concluded President Chartier.

location of stained glass artwork

The design entitled Giniigaaniimenaaning, means Looking Ahead

at the ceremony

at the reception- President Clément Chartier, President Terry Audla (ITK), and youth

Indian Residential School survivors at MNC, l to r: Angie Crerar, Gloria Laird, Louis Bellrose, President Clément Chartier, Stirling Ranville & wife Yvette

click here to view more images of Christi Belcourt’s design along with her description of the work.

click here to watch a video of a CBC report on Ceremony highlights

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