Commemoration

Learn how the Government of Canada is responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 79 to 83.

Based on data provided March 2022.

79. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to:

  1. Amending the Historic Sites and Monuments Act to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis representation on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and its Secretariat.
  2. Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada's national heritage and history.
  3. Developing and implementing a national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada's history.

What's happening?

To begin to address Call to Action 79, Budget 2018 allocated $23.9 million to Parks Canada ($15.2 million of new funding in addition to $8.7 million of existing resources) over 5 years from 2018 to 2023 to advance initiatives that include:

  • policy and legislative updates
  • increased visibility and support for Indigenous histories in Canada
  • commemorations related to the history and legacy of residential schools

Call to Action 79(i)

On June 7, 2022, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, introduced Bill C-23, the Historic Places of Canada Act, in the House of Commons. The bill, if passed by Parliament as written, would create three new positions for First Nations, Métis and Inuit representatives on the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. The bill would also improve the integration of Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into national heritage and history in Canada, thereby creating greater opportunities to protect and present the contributions of Indigenous peoples to cultural and natural heritage.

In support of Call to Action 79(i), Budget 2021 announced the government's intent to implement legislation that would provide for a transparent designation framework and the sustainable protection of over 300 federally owned historic places. The Budget proposed to provide $28.7 million over 5 years, and $5.8 million ongoing, to the Parks Canada Agency to implement the legislation, if enacted.

While the legislative proposal was being developed, non-legislative barriers to Indigenous participation as board members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada were identified and addressed.

Actions taken include:

  • outreach to encourage Indigenous candidates to apply for vacancies on the Board
  • revisions to the required qualifications
  • generating better awareness of vacancies amongst potential Indigenous applicants

The 2 most recent appointees to the Board, representing Yukon and the Northwest Territories, identify as Indigenous persons.

Call to Action 79(ii)

In response to Call to Action 79 (ii), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Canada's priority to advance reconciliation, Parks Canada is conducting an in-depth review of its cultural heritage policies to ensure that a renewed policy suite recognizes the diversity of Indigenous peoples' perspectives, values and knowledge systems.

In 2018, Parks Canada welcomed Indigenous cultural heritage practitioners, experts, Elders and academics to engage in discussions about the commemoration and protection of cultural heritage. As recommended during these gatherings, Parks Canada established the Indigenous Cultural Heritage Advisory Council in December 2019. Parks Canada maintains ongoing dialogue with members of the Council to seek input and guidance on specific cultural heritage policy review components. The Council has been providing the Agency with valuable advice for implementing Call to Action 79 and advancing reconciliation.

In 2019, the Minister for Parks Canada approved the Framework for History and Commemoration: National Historic Sites System Plan 2019. This plan provides policy direction for the review of existing designations of national historic significance to:

  • address absences of Indigenous histories
  • take into account Indigenous perspectives and established Indigenous histories as a priority for the national program of historical commemoration

In 2020, Parks Canada collaborated with the Indigenous Heritage Circle to organize and hold three regional engagement sessions with Elders, Indigenous heritage professionals and Indigenous partners to review the cultural heritage policies at Parks Canada. The Indigenous Heritage Circle's report, 2020 Indigenous Heritage Engagement Sessions: Report from the Indigenous Heritage Circle to Parks Canada, provides recommendations for renewing cultural heritage policies and relationships with Indigenous peoples.

In 2021 and early 2022, Parks Canada engaged 40 Indigenous and modern treaty organizations who have a vested interest in cultural heritage to seek their input on:

  • topics relevant to a potential historic places legislation
  • the renewal of Parks Canada's Cultural Resource Management Policy

Call to Action 79(iii)

In response to Call to Action 79(iii), on September 1, 2020, the Government of Canada recognized the national significance of the residential school system as a tragic and defining event in Canadian history.

The former Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School (Manitoba) and the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School (Nova Scotia) were designated as national historic sites in September 2020.

Since 2020, Parks Canada has provided multi-year funding to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation for the purpose of engaging with residential school communities to:

  • determine commemorative approaches to former residential school sites
  • support community-level commemorations and healing gatherings in association with the national historic event designation of the residential school system

In July 2021, the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School (Ontario) and the former Muskowekwan Indian Residential School (Saskatchewan) were also designated as national historic sites.

Budget 2022 also proposed to provide Parks Canada with $25 million over 3 years, starting in fiscal year 2022 to 2023, to support continued efforts to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.

Finally, under the Stories of Canada initiative, Parks Canada is supporting 35 multi-component capacity building projects including oral history, traditional skills workshops and travelling exhibits. These projects involve over 40 heritage places including national parks and national historic sites across 6 regions with more than 60 communities and Indigenous organizations.

The projects showcase the importance of these heritage places from Indigenous perspectives and invest in opportunities for Indigenous communities to share and communicate their histories in their own ways and in their own voices.

Next steps

Parks Canada is undertaking a multidisciplinary analysis of recommendations received during the 2021 to 2022 dialogue with 40 Indigenous and modern treaty organizations in support of the renewal of key cultural heritage policies and directives by April 2023.

Parks Canada will continue to engage Indigenous partners in the review of the draft Parks Canada's Cultural Resource Management Policy in late 2022.

New nominations about the Indigenous histories and legacies of residential schools in Canada continue to be received by the Secretariat of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Eligible nominations will be considered for potential national historic designations, with an average processing time of 2 years.

Perspectives and interpretations of Canada's history have changed a lot over the last century and through Call to Action 79, the Government of Canada will continue to work to acknowledge the legacies of its past.

Some designations and their commemorative plaques include colonial, dated or insensitive content that does not accurately reflect what is known about the country's history today. A number of existing designations related to residential school and Indigenous history are being reviewed. To find out more, please visit: Reviews of existing designations

In addition, a review of the criteria and guidelines for evaluating subjects of potential national historic significance, which sets out policies and practices of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, has been initiated and is expected to be completed in 2022.

80. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

What's happening?

Bill C-5, the legislation to establish the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, received Royal Assent on June 3, 2021. The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as an official federal statutory holiday, was marked on September 30, 2021.

81. We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools National Monument in the city of Ottawa to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

What's happening?

Recent progress

In August 2021, the government announced $20 million in new funding to build a national monument in Ottawa to honour survivors and all the children who were taken from their families and communities.

The government is:

  • working to establish a survivor-led steering committee by appointing members who participated in a 2019 visioning workshop
  • collaborating with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to solicit nominations for new members

The first steering committee meeting will be convened in spring 2022.

82. We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.

What's happening?

The provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the response to Call to Action 82.

83. We call upon the Canada Council for the Arts to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process

What's happening?

The Canada Council for the Arts launched the {Re}conciliation Initiative in 2015, in association with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada. The initiative invited First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists, collectives and arts organizations to submit applications for projects that share how the arts can contribute to the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The program ran for 2 years until the end of fiscal year 2016 to 2017 and delivered $1.8 million in support towards 26 projects.

In 2016, the Canada Council for the Arts launched its 2016 to 2021 Strategic Plan with a commitment to support the relationship between Indigenous artists and people living in Canada. The plan articulates its approach to Indigenous self-determination and decolonization.

In April 2017, the Canada Council launched the program Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, for which projects previously funded through the {Re}conciliation Initiative are eligible. This ongoing grant program supports Indigenous individuals, groups, Indigenous-led arts organizations and arts and cultural sector development organizations that foster a vital and resilient Indigenous arts ecosystem.

Designed and administered by Indigenous staff, the program acknowledges the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and respects the concepts of First Nations, Inuit and Métis self-determination.

In 2021, the Canada Council for the Arts provided funding to 451 Indigenous artists, arts groups and organizations, totaling $31.3 million. Of this funding, from January 1 to December 31, 2021, 298 Indigenous artists, arts groups and organizations received funding directly through Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, totaling $20.9 million.

In fall 2016, the Canada Council committed to tripling its investment to support the knowledge, creation and sharing of First Nations, Inuit and Métis arts and cultures to $18.9 million by fiscal year 2020 to 2021.

The Canada Council supports work to renew the relationship between Indigenous artists and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences. This work is furthering truth and reconciliation, decolonization, and helps foster a shared future free of discrimination.

In 2020 to 2021, the Canada Council provided $28 million in funding to over 540 Indigenous artists, groups and arts organizations from coast to coast to coast. The Canada Council surpassed its goal to triple support for Indigenous creation by fiscal year 2020 to 2021.

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