Sudbury

Shingwauk residential school in Sault Ste. Marie designated historic site by Parks Canada

Parks Canada has designated the former Shingwauk residential school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., as a national historic site. The designation shows that Canada is committed to telling stories about the ‘shameful and racist colonial policy’ that led to these institutions.

Former residential school operated between 1875-1970, 1,000 Indigenous children attended from Ontario, Quebec

The Shingwauk Indian Residential School, shown around 1965, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University)

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

Parks Canada has designated the former Shingwauk residential school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., as a national historic site.

The designation shows that Canada is committed to telling stories about the 'shameful and racist colonial policy' that led to these institutions, a news release states.

"The Residential School System is a tragic and shameful period in Canada's history that continues to have profound impacts to this day," said Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of Environment and Climate Change and minister responsible for Parks Canada.

"The Government of Canada is acknowledging the past and, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and communities, is committed to sharing the experiences of Indigenous children in these schools to ensure that this history is remembered and these stories are told," he added.

"In doing so, we hope to foster better understanding of our shared history as we walk the path of reconciliation together," Wilkinson said.

The former Shingwauk residential school operated between 1875 and 1970 in Sault Ste. Marie, and was run by the Anglican Church of Canada. More than 1,000 Indigenous children from Ontario, Quebec, the Praires and the Northwest Territories attended it.

The former residential school property is now part of the present campus for Algoma University, and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, an Anishnaabe institution run in partnership with Algoma University.

The Shingwauk Cemetery contains 109 known burials, including 72 students who died between 1875 and 1956.

Jay Jones is the son of the late Susie and Vernon Jones, who were both Shingwauk Residential School Survivors. He is president of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. (Algoma University)

"With the news of the Kamloops and Cowessess children revealing themselves to us, it is a reminder of the important work that we must do here on the Shingwauk site with our survivors and our site partners, so that this does not happen to another child again," said Jay Jones, president of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association is a group that helps support survivors of former institutions and helps preserve residential school history in Canada. Both of Jones' parents were survivors of the residential school in Sault Ste. Marie.

Jones said the elders/survivors he works with are especially happy with the historical designation decision.

"They're overjoyed," he said. "And the reason why is because they've been doing this for 40 years and all their hard work is coming to fruition."

If we have the Shingwauk Hall designated as [a national historic site] then that building won't go away. That story remains. It will create conversation.- Jay Jones, president Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association 

The national historic site designation will help more people learn about these institutions, and Jones hopes it can become a model for other groups that may seek out similar historic designations in the future.

"If we have the Shingwauk Hall designated as such, then that building won't go away," he said. "That story still remains. It will create conversation, it will create dialogue with other people, to say 'hey what's that all about?' and then they will learn the residential school story."

Recognizing former residential schools as historic sites is Call to Action 79 part of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

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How to get help

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and for those triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

With files from Warren Schlote

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