Manitoba

Students use art to shed light on Canada's dark past

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation selected a painting by three Gonzaga Middle School students to represent Manitoba in its art and leadership program.

A painting by 3 Gonzaga Middle School students is now part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Journey Irvine and Jade Larocque's painting was selected for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s art and leadership program. (Warren Kay/ CBC)

Three students from Gonzaga Middle School, a Jesuit private school in Winnipeg's inner city, are shedding light on Canada's dark past through art.

Journey Irvine, Jade Larocque and Catterie Wood created a painting they call "The truth" to represent Residential School Survivor and reconciliation. 

"We were searching birds on a branch because I have done that type of painting before [then] we realized it had no meaning," said Irvine. 

She and Larocque decided to look up the seven sacred teachings and decided to paint the turtle "because it represents the elders telling their truth about what they went through when they were kids," said Larocque.

The students entered their painting into "Imagine a Canada," a youth leadership program by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The three canvases, titled "The truth," now belong to The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. (Warren Kay/ CBC)

They were selected to represent Manitoba out of more than 450 submissions nationwide.

"The general idea of this was peace for Canada, for everyone," said Irvine.

The girls said they thought about survivors and their experiences while painting.

"The turtles are all walking the same path even though they're all different colours and stuff," said Larocque. "They're all going to go towards the light in tell their story eventually."

Larocque said she's learned first hand about residential schools through an elder she visits twice a week. The 13-year-old helps her with chores and said one day she mentioned her painting.

We want everybody to be peaceful together and treat each other equally.- Journey Irvine

"She started talking about residential school and she told me about her experience there and how all the adults would tell the children to not go and play with the Indigenous kids because they were bad," she said.

Larocque and Irvine both have ties to Peguis First Nation and say they are learning about their own histories and working towards reconciliation with non-Indigenous Canadians.
Irvine, Larocque, Elder Doris Young, and Catterie Wood at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. (Siobhan Faulkner/Submitted)

"We want everybody to be peaceful together and treat each other equally," said Irvine. "And realize everyone is different but shouldn't be treated differently." 

Siobhan Faulkner, who is the school's Graduate and Student Support Director, encouraged the girls to enter their art into the competition.

She said the girls also attended a workshop by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation as part of their prize. There they got to listen and learn from elders. Faulkner and her students sewed ribbon skirts with turtles on them for the event.

"Watching the elders reactions when they saw them walking up in their ribbon skirts, that was a really powerful thing for them," she said.

She said it was at the workshop where the girls realized the magnitude of the loss of culture caused by residential schools. She said the elders were touched to see the girls wearing the long skirts, embracing a part of their culture, being proud of who they are.

The painting now belongs to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and will eventually be hung in a public place.

Students use art to shed light on Residential Schools and reconciliation

CBC News Manitoba

3 years ago
1:57
A painting by 3 Gonzaga Middle School students is now part of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. 1:57

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