SCO launches healing programs to support residential school survivors

·3 min read

An organization that represents First Nations communities across southern Manitoba says it will now launch an awareness and education campaign, as it looks to bring more attention to the ongoing legacy and the often grim history of residential schools.

“It is only through truth that we reach meaningful reconciliation, and we will not rest until the full history of the residential schools is known by everyone who now shares our land,” Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a statement Tuesday.

Daniels said SCO has now embarked on a new month-long campaign to honour residential school survivors and children who did not make it back home from residential schools, and to “draw attention to lasting and meaningful truth and reconciliation for Indian Residential School (IRS) Survivors and their families.”

The campaign will conclude on Sept. 30, which marks the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day, a day meant to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities.

“There is absolutely no disputing that the residential schools were one of the darkest periods in Canadian history, and that the legacy of the schools continues today,” Daniels said.

SCO’s Every Child Matters campaign will now be seen on billboards and transit signs in Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Dauphin, Steinbach, Winkler and Swan River, and lawn signs, posters, and vehicle stickers are also available free of charge at SCO’s Winnipeg office building on Dublin Avenue.

Every Child Matters messaging will also be reflected on all SCO social media streams, websites, and traditional media advertising throughout the month of September.

SCO said it is also taking steps it hopes will allow residential school survivors and those affected by the long-running system to heal, as the organization has also launched two new programs, the SCO Survivors’ Healing Supports Program, and the Harm Reduction Awareness and Land Based Healing Fund.

Both were developed, according to SCO, to provide the opportunity for Anishinaabe and Dakota people to reconnect with their cultures and traditions, and both are designed to assist survivors in gaining better access to advocacy and support.

The initiatives come after the SCO Chiefs-in-Summit unanimously passed a resolution in September of last year, to support “permanent, increased, and enhanced supports for Indian Residential School Survivors.”

“Generations of colonization aimed at removing us from our land and outlawing our ceremonies, our languages, and our cultures have had a devastating effect on our health and well-being,” Daniels said.

“I am proud of our leadership and staff for heeding this urgent call to action for our peoples.”

SCO said as we approach Sept. 30, they are now calling on all Manitobans and all Canadians to take time this month to honour and remember residential school survivors, and children who did not make it home from residential schools.

“Now that more and more Canadians know the truth about the little ones who never came home and what survivors endured, it is imperative that we commit to change and to individual, organizational, and corporate acts of reconciliation,” Daniels said.

“We are asking Manitobans and Canadians, ‘what will you do in honour of survivors and the children?’”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun