On the call for a residential schools national monument
Journal of Canadian Studies , Volume 52 - Issue 1 p. 57- 81
In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called "... 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." As we reckon with this "call to action" number 81, and bear witness to recent and ongoing public repudiation of contentious monuments, it becomes apparent that the logic of such a monument must be questioned. On the surface, it would appear that a counter or therapeutic monument (for which we have models) might best suit call 81's objectives. I argue that the 144 Indigenous-led commemoration projects funded through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, which reflect contemporary Indigenous commemorative approaches, forms, and practices for remembering and healing from traumatic pasts and their ongoing legacies, are those most relevant to the Residential Schools National Monument project. They can inform its process, design, siting, and programming, which may enable it to resist, counter, redefine, and perhaps even decolonize the "national monument." In this article, I both critique call 81 and seek to contribute to this possibility.