Halifax restaurant opens room for reconciliation with Indigenous people
Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar is first Halifax restaurant to launch a Legacy Room
At Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar in downtown Halifax, there's an elegant, private room tucked off to the side where a dozen people can sit down and share a meal and conversation.
The restaurant's co-owner hopes that, as of Monday, that room — called a Legacy Room — will become a place that creates awareness and healing after Canada's long history of injustices against Indigenous people.
"It'll just provide a safe space for people to come in and talk about whatever they need to," said Sam Murphy.
Room for reconciliation
Talking about the harm caused by residential schools is not mandatory in the room. But to get the conversation started, there's a smudging bowl and a feather, along with cards titled Truth and Reconciliation.
Murphy admits these issues weren't previously on his radar.
"With myself not knowing anything about it, there's obviously a lot of Canadians that are in the same boat," said Murphy.
For him, that changed when he was approached by a customer, Chief Morley Googoo, who came up with the idea of Legacy Rooms at the restaurant.
Googoo was moved to action after learning the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old who died while trying to escape a residential school in the 1960s.
Wenjack's story also inspired Tragically Hip frontman, Gord Downie, to create the Chanie Wenjack Fund before he died of brain cancer last month.
By signing on as a Legacy Room, Barrington Steakhouse is pledging $5,000 every year for the next five years to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.
The restaurant's Legacy Room will contain two plaques with the fund's logo and the story of Chanie Wenjack.
Murphy says "it's quite a commitment" but one that he thinks is achievable. On Monday, he'll be shutting down the restaurant to host a Legacy Room launch party. Tickets are $75 for food and drink, with entertainment provided by Adam Baldwin and Heather Rankin. All proceeds will go to the fund.
'It's a start, for sure'
Armbrae Academy, Dalhousie University and Waterfront Development Corporation are also signed up to open Legacy Rooms. But this is the first restaurant in the city to join the cause.
Murphy says it's part corporate responsibility, part smart business.
"The more we can do for community outreach, the better. So when this opportunity presented itself, we were pretty quick to jump on board."
And for him, it's a personal step toward reconciliation.
"I definitely think it's a start, for sure."