The western side of Nathan Phillips Square is set to be transformed into an Indigenous Spirit Garden as part of the Indian Residential School Survivors (IRSS) Restoration of Identity Project.
The new expansive garden, which is being overseen by the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, will honour both the survivors of Canada’s residential schools and the children who were lost throughout the abusive school system’s 160-year lifetime.
“We are proud to collaborate with Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre to honour the resilience and vitality of residential school survivors and their families to build this important legacy project and advance reconciliation,” said Mayor John Tory.
The garden’s design will centre around a two-metre tall sculpture of a turtle on a platform that will bear the names of the 17 residential schools that once operated in Ontario. Radiating out from the sculpture will be a teaching lodge, an amphitheatre, a Three Sisters teaching garden, a voyageur canoe, and an inuksuk.
Elements representing a variety of Indigenous cultures, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, will all be incorporated into the Nathan Phillips Square design.
“We are inspired knowing that the vision of the Spirit Garden is coming to life,” said Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural CentreBoard Designate Andrea Chrisjohn.
“This dedicated space will embody our diverse Indigenous cultures, our teachings and images, our plant life and medicines; and will incorporate the principles of the Kuswenta, to work together in friendship, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. Most importantly, this significant project will honour the strength and courage of residential school survivors and inter-generational families.”
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The project is expected to cost an estimated $17 million. During its April 8 meeting, Toronto City Council allocated an additional $2 million towards the garden’s construction, bringing their total contribution to $13 million.
Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre is fundraising $4 million. The Province of Ontario contributed $1.5 million in seed funding to get the research, design and community consultation off the ground.
According to the City, the garden is expected to be substantially complete by late 2023.