OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — The Canadian government raised the Survivors’ Flag on Parliament Hill Monday as a way to honor Indigenous Peoples forced to attend the country’s notorious residential schools.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was joined by survivors of residential schools from across the country.
More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture. The aim was to Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.
Several residential school survivors spoke about the significance of the flag, including Jimmy Durocher, a Métis survivor who attended St. Bruno’s boarding school in Île-à-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan.
“Today we raise the Survivors’ Flag high over these colonial buildings, where lawmakers are now listening to our truths and seeking to work together towards reconciliation,” Durocher said.
The flag will remain raised on Parliament Hill until 2024, when a decision will be made on its permanent home.
Trudeau called residential schools a “shameful” part of Canadian history and said the Survivors’ Flag would serve as a way for Canadians to remember what happened at the government-funded, church-operated institutions over more than a century.
“This flag is an expression of remembrance,” Trudeau said. “It is meant to honor all survivors and all the lives through the generations that have been, are being, and will continue to be impacted by the residential school system.”
Pope Francis apologized in Canada last month for the Catholic church’s role in the schools.