Read video interview transcript below.
Ry Moran, the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation — which hosts a research collection that includes thousands of hours of survivor statements — believes that reconciliation is for everyone.
"Reconciliation, at its foundation, is a coming-togetherness, so it's for people of all walks of life, all ages, and all stations in life," he said.
"If we can take that anger or that sorrow and channel it and push that stuff forward and try to create a better society, then we are actually on a pretty good path."
On the NCTR's homepage, visitors are presented with a map of Canada that features geographical indicators for residential schools, national events, and hearings. By selecting an individual residential school, visitors can read about the history of the school, see images and other related materials. Visit nctr.ca for more on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Transcript of video interview with Ry Moran
Reconciliation isn’t going to happen by one person or one organization or any one group, it’s got to be a collective effort, it’s got to be inclusive, it’s got to be participatory because that’s what it’s going to take.
[Screen text: Ry Moran, Director of National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba]
The centre itself was imagined right in the Settlement Agreement, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, so that Settlement Agreement was the settlement to Canada’s largest class action lawsuit, it a massive settlement it created a whole bunch of different processes, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission being one of those. So, schedule in of the settlement agreement is the TRC’s mandate, and in the TRC’s mandate is it says that the TRC must establish a national centre, we’re that national centre. And why was that called for? Well the people that were drafting the agreement, like Phil Fontaine and others on his team, felt very passionately about the need to continue to educate Canadians and the need to preserve this history so that we could always remember and that we could never forget because it has been so impactful on the country.
The building is located on the University of Manitoba campus and we are in a beautiful old home actually which is meaningful in some ways because we are actually a home for these records and beyond that it’s actually really nice to be inside a house as well, because, of course, it was the home that was so attacked in the entire residential school era. It was an attack on families, it was an attack on the notion of home, the idea of a safe space where families could be together. So the environment that we are trying to create here is honouring that sense of home and sense of place and sense of safeness.
And it’s not a big building, but it’s a good building and it’s one that is absolutely open to the public and where we sincerely hope that people, students, survivors, their family members will find their way here just to walk around or to work with some of the records here in the building. Despite this being on the University of Manitoba campus right now, and this being the primary home for the records, there is a notion of partnership and nationalness is embedded right into the function and format of the centre as well. So, we’re seeing other universities across the country pick up that call to action, the University of British Columbia is building a multi-million-dollar space right in the heart of their campus, which is so exciting. We are involved in conversations with partners across the country, and even partners right here in the city, the University of Winnipeg, Red River [College], Canadian Museum for Human Rights all of which are going to be different ways of accessing the collection and sharing information which is really going to be the fulfillment of this idea of a national network of partners.
The total collection amounts to about five million records or so. We have records now on every single residential school up online, some of those records we have opened up and made available for the first time really to the public, but we’ve played it also really safe as well, we’re trying to strike a respectful balance between the protection of personal information and the need to educate the public on this history and also the need to get this information in the hands of survivors. The balance to the documentary history is also the survivors’ statements and we’ve released survivor statements from the vast majority of the public commission hearings that were webcast live that were held in basically every region of the country and those are critical, the collections really needs to be understood as a whole, so we can’t just rely on the documentary record and we need to rely on the survivor testimony as well because the documentary record and the survivor testimony together actually provide us with the most comprehensive and fulsome picture of residential schools that we’ve ever had.
By mapping these places out we’ve actually given people the ability to visit these places and they need to be mapped big time because recently we went to the Regina school and the school in Duck Lake and if it were not for the map and us putting a marker on there you would not be able to tell that there was a residential school there, they are just empty fields now. So it is really critical that these sites be remembered and marked for what they were and where they were.
What is reconciliation? Well at its foundation it’s coming togetherness, so it’s for people of all walks of live, all ages, and all stations in life, in terms of rich and poor, successful and not, or whatever those measurements mean, right? It’s for everybody. In saying that, we do know that there is a difference in need between different communities. So, for, say, regular Canadians who are just coming to terms with this history well that’s a particular need, that’s the baby steps on the road, and then the walking, then the running down the path of reconciliation. For survivors and their families there is a different need there and there’s different things we need to do for survivors and their families. And that’s relates to both the personal information that’s in the records, but also the need to put them in the driver’s seat in terms of determining how this collection is stewarded and shepherded and made available. So it is open to everybody, it is essential that everyone has access to this that is what we’ve been asked to do, that is what the mandate told us to do, is to make the collection as accessible as possible. But at the same time we need to recognize that we are serving different audiences of people with specific needs and specific reasons they would be wanting to work with this information and that requires different sensitivities to each one of these groups.
We have to collectively recognize that this process we are going to go through as a nation will evoke strong emotions and the ability that we have with this database is that it’s at the ready to be there when we need it and people should be encouraged and aware that it is okay to take little bites. Without a doubt there is information in that database already that is bone rattling in a way, it will shake you to your core. We absolutely have an obligation to listen to survivors, but we also need to take care of ourselves in the process. And it’s important that people take care of themselves in the process to the extent that they can and recognize it is perfectly real and perfectly normal and perfectly expected to have strong emotional reactions to this material and that’s actually a good thing. If you’re not affected by this history there’s a problem. The benefit of strong emotions is that they can be motivating as well though. If we can take that anger or that sorrow and channel it and push that stuff forward and try to create a better society then we are actually on a pretty good path.