A portion of the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School site could host a future display that acknowledges its history.

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This article was published 30/6/2021 (408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A portion of the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School site could host a future display that acknowledges its history.

A new proposal calls for Winnipeg city council to pay $1 for land at 621 Academy Rd., located just north of Centennial Street, which is currently owned by the RCMP.

The city would own and maintain the property, while the Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group would install a meeting circle, reproduce an original school sign and add interpretive panels on the land, if council approves the plan.

Cecil Sveinson, Winnipeg manager of Indigenous relations, said the city became involved in discussions about the idea in 2018.

Sveinson said it’s important the project is being guided by the legacy group itself.

"This is exactly how it should be. It should be community-driven, survivor-driven, with their wishes and respecting what they want done with the space… It’s exciting. I hope that it could serve as a model for other municipalities to follow," said Sveinson.

He also hopes the project will help educate Winnipeggers about the former residential high school, which operated from 1958 to 1973.

Residential schools were designed to assimilate Indigenous students and have since been condemned for separating them from families and culture.

"Lots of area residents have lived in that neighbourhood their whole lives and had no clue (the school) was there," said Sveinson.

More Winnipeggers may have become aware of Assiniboia over the past few weeks, after the discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves at other former residential school sites across Canada cast a spotlight on the system.

Andrew Woolford, a University of Manitoba sociology professor who works with the legacy group, said plans for the space include prairie grasses and a pathway leading to a main monument, as well as some smaller ones. The plans also include at least three informational panels on the site’s history.

"First and foremost, the idea is to have a place for Survivors from all residential schools, and their families," said Woolford.

If possible, he said the group would like to break ground on the project later this year.

Coun. Cindy Gilroy, property and development committee chairwoman, said she will vote in favour of the plan, which she sees as an important step toward reconciliation.

"We have to work in collaboration... so that we’re (acknowledging) the historical wrongs of our past," said Gilroy.

The legacy group could lease the land, licence it or donate what it builds to the city, though that aspect of the proposal has not yet been worked out.


Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.