Planning for the memorialisation of the Indian Residential School System: A case study of the Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford, Ontario
MetadataShow full item record
This research examines the process of memorialisation around the Indian Residential School System in Canada to draw connections between the fields of transitional justice and professional urban planning. For over a century, government and churches in Canada operated a system of residential schools that removed Indigenous children from their families and communities. Today, many Indigenous communities struggle with the intergenerational impacts of this system, and as a society we are attempting to heal the damaged relationships that have resulted. This research presents a comparative case study of two processes of memorialisation surrounding the residential school system. Through site observations, interviews, and analyses of documents, this research examines the transformation and memorialisation of the Mohawk Institute, a former residential school, into the Woodland Cultural Centre, a First Nations-run centre located in Brantford, Ontario. I compare this example with the national Commemoration Fund, set out in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (2006), which settled lawsuits filed by residential school survivors against the federal government of Canada and several church organisations. This research underlines some tensions inherent in memorialising the human rights abuses experienced in the residential schools. A significant difficulty is establishing balance between leaving ownership of stories of the residential school experiences with survivors, while acknowledging the responsibilities that the whole of society must carry if reconciliation is to be achieved. I conclude that the process established through the Commemoration Fund does not adequately reflect this balance, leaving a heavy burden on survivors and their communities without providing adequate support. I further argue that the timelines established through this fund do not allow for the longer-term evolution that may characterize effective memorialisation projects. These themes link to theories around collaborative planning, and considerations of social justice and procedural fairness. In recent decades, collaborative planning has been seen as a way to make planning practices more inclusive. However, in the context of planning with Indigenous Peoples, collaborative processes may not be a sufficient response to rights claims. This has important implications for professional planners, as we work towards decolonization, reconciliation, and establishing just-relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Canada.