Winnipeg 'ground zero' for TRC conversations with new national centre

Work has been going on for months to set up the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. The centre will be a place for the conversation, healing and understanding to continue.

Centre head says Winnipeg will be home to the most important conversations in the country's history

TRC Commissioners join United Church officials to place Expression of Reconciliation in Bentwood Box which will be located at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Winnipeg is being called "ground zero" for the continuing conversation in Canada on residential schools and racism with the opening of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.

"I think it's a big deal. And I think it's not just a big deal for Winnipeg but it's a big deal for what's happening in the country as well," said centre director Ry Moran.
Ry Moran, director of The Nation Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba calls Winnipeg the natural place for the conversation on Indian Residential Schools to continue. (Ry Moran)

"I moved from Victoria to Winnipeg, people often ask me why I did that and I say, 'I can't think of a better place to be in the country right now for these type of conversations," Moran said.

The centre, which will open in the fall, is located in Chancellor's Hall at the University of Manitoba, one of the few spots on campus facing the river.

The 8,000-square-foot building will become home to most of the 7,000 survivor statements, hundreds of photos, thousands of hours of video and millions of government documents and church records. 

It will also be home to the Bentwood Box, a box containing everything from a broken brick from a demolished residential school to a hockey jersey, star blankets, a Saskatoon police hat and a miniature birch bark canoe as an expression of reconciliation.
Saskatoon police offered a police hat to the Bentwood Box, to mark improvements in the relationship between police and the aboriginal community. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

"We've got a really great spot that the public can visit, the entire ground floor of the building is open public space, we have some ceremonial space outside," Moran said.

"We're surrounded by green space there, so we've actually got a very tranquil spot that really lends itself to having both thoughtful conversations and public conversations around the issue and then bringing people into the building as well to start interacting with some of their own history or perhaps the history of their family. And of course with that history being so tough we have already made plans at the centre for there to be a lot of emotion expressed there," Moran said.

Moran believes Winnipeg is the natural home for the centre, and is becoming the place for difficult issues such as racism to be discussed.

"People kind of had the sense that Winnipeg was really the, sort of the cultural capital in a lot of ways of indigenous music and that stuff. I think what's happening right now is Winnipeg is very quickly emerging to be the cultural capital for this conversation around what happens next. What happens with reconciliation, what happens with human rights, how do we deal with this racism issue. Winnipeg's kind of the 'ground zero' for a lot of these conversations and we've got some amazing people in town. We've got a great mayor who's committed to these issues," Moran said.

Moran said the centre is fundraising for a larger centre to be located on the Southwood Golf Course lands.

"Some of the conversations around racism, some of the conversations are tough, but, you know, we've got some amazing things happening in town at the same time, and I think the centre's one of them."


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