'We can go forward': Holocaust, residential school survivors share message of hope

Hundreds of Saskatoon students listened to a message of hope from a residential school survivor and a holocaust survivor Monday.

Students, teachers say speakers gave them window into dark periods of history

Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger and residential school survivor Eugene Arcand shared their experiences with hundreds of students Monday at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. (Jason Warick)

Fourteen-year-old Jordan Kinar felt like crying several times Monday morning as a residential school survivor and a holocaust survivor shared their stories on stage.

"It was really touching, and I learned a lot, too," Kinar said following the talk by Eugene Arcand and Nate Leipciger at Saskatoon's Cathedral of the Holy Family.

"It was so dark for them, and they never lost hope."

Kinar and hundreds of students and teachers listened to the two men on stage. Kinar, a student at Ecole Lakeview School, said she learned about both residential schools and the Holocaust in class, but having Arcand and Leipciger share their experiences was powerful.

Ecole Lakeview School student Jordan Kinar said she was moved by the message of hope from a Holocaust and a residential school survivor Monday. (Jason Warick)

"I felt so honoured to listen to them. We all need to do better in our lives," she said.

Lakeview teacher Chris Catton said he was also honoured to attend, and was moved by the various parallels the men drew between their experiences.

Leipciger, who grew up in Poland during the Second World War and narrowly avoided death in the concentration camp gas chambers, arrived in Canada in 1948. He said he wants students to understand that they can't just be tolerant of others — they have to actively fight injustice.

Work to fight injustice, says Holocaust survivor

"We should be actively supporting those who need support," he said.

"We can go forward from here to a better world which has love instead of hate."

Arcand, who attended residential schools in Duck Lake and Lebret, said everyone has to find a way to understand each others' experiences. 

"It's important for me to share the truth, not because it's hurtful but because we'll all be better people for it...we have to admit, we have a long way to go toward reconciliation and understanding between all peoples," Arcand said.

Arcand hopes the young people will understand the "rare" chance to hear and feel things directly from people who experienced these moments of history. He hopes they'll pass the messages to their parents and others.


Jason Warick


Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.