For over a century, until 1996, the Canadian Government removed at least 150,000 Indigenous children from their families to place them in Indian Residential Schools run by Christian churches. Thousands died of disease, neglect, or mishap; many suffered physical, spiritual and sexual abuse.
In 2008, Survivors forced an Apology from the Prime Minister, “for failing them so profoundly.” In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called the schools “cultural genocide.”
Learn more by visiting the graves of some who were involved in the schools and by reading the TRC Final Report.
Reconciling History Program at Beechwood Cemetery
Beginning in 2014, Beechwood Cemetery, Funeral, and Cremation Services and the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation have collaborated with the Indigenous community to create the Reconciling History program. Beechwood has partnered with the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society and KAIROS Canada.
With the ultimate goal of education and awareness, Beechwood strives to show both sides of history by not excluding the impact many prominent Canadians buried in our grounds had on the Indigenous community. Choosing rather to highlight both their achievements and their short comings to provide a rounded view of history.
Through the Tour Program, the Great Canadian Plaques, and Blanket Ceremonies, the Reconciling History program aims to foster respect and healing through education.
Reconciling History Tours
Exploring the vast grounds of Beechwood, this version of the tour program focuses not only on the History of Beechwood and those buried here, but more specifically on those who were involved with the Indigenous Community. Those like Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce; who while working at Indian Affairs documented the health crisis in the Residential school system, and Nicolas Flood Davin who wrote the book ‘Industrial Schools for Indians and Half Breeds’ that was used as the foundation for creating the residential schools.
The tour lasts roughly 1 hour, and is free of charge. School groups are welcome.
Great Canadian Plaques
The Great Canadian Plaque program is a refreshing and unique way to display history. Rather than tear down plaques highlighting the prominent work Canadians did, the plaques are transformed to a dual reflection informing the reader about both their achievements and the impact they had on the Indigenous community. Beechwood does not want to rewrite history or show one side of a person. People are complicated and conflicting beings, and these plaques reflect that.
The best example is that of Duncan Campbell Scott:
SCOTT IS RECOGNIZED AS ONE OF CANADA’S CONFEDERATION POETS. HIS WORK, INCLUDING SEVERAL VOLUMES OF POETRY AND SHORT STORIES, WAS INSPIRED BY THE CANADIAN WILDERNESS. HE IS ALSO NOTORIOUS FOR HIS 52-YEAR CAREER IN THE DEPARTMENT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. AS DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, SCOTT OVERSAW THE ASSIMILATIONIST INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM FOR ABORIGINAL CHILDREN, STATING HIS GOAL WAS “TO GET RID OF THE INDIAN PROBLEM.” IN ITS 2015 REPORT, CANADA’S TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION SAID THAT THE INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM AMOUNTED TO CULTURAL GENOCIDE.
Beechwood is a keeper of Canadian history, and strives to provide the best education to our families and those visiting the grounds.
Hopefully, through the Great Canadian Plaques, those acknowledged can become bridges of conversation and a pathway towards healing for the Indigenous community.
Additional media and published articles
- Amid historical figures debate, Ottawa cemetery plaques offer a model to reconcile troubling legacies
- Pushed out and silenced: How one doctor was punished for speaking out about residential schools
- Reconciling History - How a Cemetery Breathed Life Into Reconciliation
- Reconciling History with Canada’s First Nations — Beechwood Cemetery’s program of national healing through truth and education
- Transforming Gravesites into Tools for Truth and Reconciliation
- KAIROS Blanket Exercise at Beechwood Cemetery