A special coin-sized keepsake has been minted in Winnipeg to honour residential school survivors and victims, and ensure Canadians never forget the intergenerational impacts of the schools.
The Royal Canadian Mint launched the new keepsake during a news conference Thursday, ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
The keepsake "invites reflection and conversation about the impacts of those schools, the conditions that created them, and how people living in Canada can turn reflection into acts of reconciliation," a news release from the mint says.
Thursday's launch was held at the at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus. The mint worked with the NCTR to create the keepsake, which is inscribed with the words "Every Child Matters" in both English and French, and was designed in collaboration with First Nations artist Leticia Spence, Inuit artist Jason Sikoak and Métis artist JD Hawk.
"September and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a moment for the country to pause, reflect, and remember the children who never came home from residential school and those still with us today," said Stephanie Scott, executive director of the NCTR.
Both sides of the keepsake feature symbolic imagery reflective of First Nations, Inuit and Métis teachings and traditional art forms.
The side with the Every Child Matters inscription includes a pair of footprints to represent ancestors walking with younger generations. At the centre, orange-coloured handprints form the shape of the sun — the life-giving source of light and heat, the mint's description says.
Within the hands is the flame motif from the NCTR logo, an acknowledgement of the spiritual flame that is born inside a person, while the hands are encircled by a border representing the radiating waves of the sun's light and heat, the mint says.
On the other side, First Nations rights, culture and teachings are represented by symbols of water, a stylized fireweed flower, a teepee, a tikanagan (cradle board) and a triangular motif inspired by parfleche (rawhide carrying bag).
The Inuit are represented by traditional tattoo line work, northern lights, an ulu (traditional curved knife), and a brother and sister representing those sent to residential schools.
The Métis are represented by an infinity symbol, a beadwork flower, a traditional sash and a bison facing east to confront the approaching colonizers.
Eugene Arcand, a residential school survivor and Cree from the Muskeg Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, spoke at Thursday's launch. He applauded the mint for contacting the NCTR "to do things the right way" through collaboration.
"I'm very, very honoured to be part of this historic event. It is vitally, vitally important that we deal with the truth and the sad history of Canada's darkest secret," he said.
"Public education and understanding is helping fix and heal those wounds towards a life of wellness."
What the National Centre for Truth and Reconcilation has done to raise awareness since it opened in 2015 "is beyond my dreams and beyond the dreams of my fellow survivors," Arcand said.
"We never thought we'd see what we're seeing in our lifetimes."
The keepsake is sold for $9.95 through the Royal Canadian Mint as well as participating Canada Post locations.
Net proceeds will be donated to the Na-mi-quai-ni-mak Community Support Fund, established by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
The keepsake "represents a past that must never be forgotten, and a better future we can all build together," a statement on the mint's website says.