The federal Liberals are promising to spend $60 million on a new home for the Winnipeg-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, if re-elected to form government.
It would include capital funding and some operating support in 2022 for a new facility planned on the Southwood lands within the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus. (The centre is currently on campus, in a historic building at 177 Dysart Rd.)
The Liberal campaign pledge includes an additional $5 million in annual operating support in each of the following five years.
"(These are) real measures designed to make sure that an adequate building is put in a culturally respectful place for people to dig further into the truth, because there is still a lot of truth to be uncovered," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday.
Stephanie Scott, centre executive director, said the recent discoveries of potentially thousands of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools has proven traumatic for many Canadians. Those experiences highlight the need for a larger and more versatile facility, she said.
"The last few months have been very difficult. We’ve sat with many, many survivors and elders and they supported us in ceremony as we continued to do our work... With this comes even more work. The centre needs to grow to meet the needs of survivors and their families," said Scott.
Children were taken from their families into the residential school system, which was designed to eliminate Indigenous culture. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation aims to provide education and dialogue about that system and the injustices suffered by children who attended the schools.
Following the campaign pledge, Scott told media the new centre is expected to cost well-above $60 million, though the exact price has not yet been determined. While plans are still in the early stages, it’s expected to include an international learning lodge for reconciliation, with a reflection space, among several other features.
"You’re going to see a world-class archive… You’re going to see a kitchen where our grannies and grandpas and kookums can come cook and teach the language and share food. You’re going to see ceremonial spaces where we can come together… and learn from each other," she said.
Shirley Robinson, Liberal candidate for Churchill–Keewatinook Aski, said funding to support a new centre and ensure its operations are sustainable would mark an important step toward reconciliation.
"The legacy of residential schools is painful, distressing and uncomfortable, but we must address the harmful legacy of colonization as we go forward as a nation," said Robinson, a Cree woman from Pimicikamak Cree Nation.
Robinson said she, herself, is the daughter of two residential school survivors and witnessed intergenerational trauma from the system in her community.
"While we cannot bring back those we continually mourn in our nations... we can and we will tell the truth of these injustices and we will support survivors and their communities," she said.
Scott said she hopes to break ground on the building within about five years, as considerable planning, consultation and fundraising is still needed.
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.