Construction is underway on the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, the first facility of its kind in Western Canada.
The two-storey, 6,500-square-foot project will cost $5.5-million to construct and be built on the south side of the Library Gardens, near the clock tower between Koerner Library and Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.
The library will hold records from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, providing former residential school students and families with access to what transpired. It will also give UBC students and visitors a resource to understand the history and impacts of Indian residential schools.
The centre will focus on the experiences of victims in BC, where many of the schools were located, and serve as an affiliate site to the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.
There will be an advanced use of interactive media to offer visitors the opportunity to explore records and testimonies. Additionally, the centre will be a hub for academic and community research, education, and public programming.
A difficult chapter in Canadian history
“The centre will provide the UBC community an opportunity for greater reflection on a difficult chapter in Canadian history,” said UBC President Santa Ono in a statement. “Recognition of our past is of critical importance to UBC and to all Canadians in planning our future. The centre will help us to collectively rethink the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in this country.”
The university is also taking the opportunity to revitalize the sunken Library Garden while it is turned into a construction zone for the new centre. The garden will receive a much-needed retrofit that will include contour-like steps that reach a new reflection water feature.
It is anticipated that the new centre will be complete during the 2017-18 academic year.
Approximately 150,000 indigenous children were forced from their homes and sent to strict religious boarding schools from the 1800s to the late 1900s. The last residential school did not close until 1996 in Saskatchewan.
At least 6,000 children died in Canada’s Indian residential school system.