A federal grant program that offers funds to commemorate the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system has extended its deadline in the wake of COVID-19.
It’s a part of Canadian Heritage’s Celebration and Commemorative Program that received $7 million in funding over two years in the federal government’s 2019 budget. The money is to support projects that raise awareness of the legacy of residential schools, and honour survivors, their families and communities.
It is also to create an environment to advance intergenerational healing and reconciliation.
The department told CBC News the Mar. 27 deadline for projects requesting $5,000 or less will be extended amid the current global COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline for projects requesting up to $50,000 is April 9.
Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, said he would hate to see a program underutilized as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“We’ve hit a massive pause button worldwide but I would hate to see something as important as this get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “The goals and objectives of this commemoration are to ensure that there is a lasting and ongoing legacy created of healing, truth, and reconciliation across the country.”
Six large-scale national projects were funded last year, while this year’s funding focuses on grassroots-level engagement. It will support community events and activities suited to specific histories, needs and realities.
“The Government has committed to implementing the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, including calls to ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools,” the department told CBC News in a statement.
“The Government of Canada is firmly committed to advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co‑operation, and partnership.”
One projct funded last year was the NCTR conference focusing on Indigenous community-based initiatives surrounding residential school sites and cemeteries.
Moran said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s own commemoration projects recognized the need for a blend of national and grassroots projects to promote healing.
Among the 94 Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, five directly deal with the commemoration of the history and legacy of Canada’s residential schools system.
They call upon the federal government to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration, a statutory holiday for truth and reconciliation, a national monument in Ottawa, as well as monuments in each province to honour survivors and children who were lost to their families and communities.
The commission also said the Canada Council of the Arts should establish a strategy for collaborative projects that contribute to reconciliation.
Only one out of those calls to action has been complete to date.
“It’s really important that communities have the opportunity to pick their own paths forward on this, and it’s essential that knowledge gets out there,” said Moran.
“I don’t think we can ever underestimate how important grassroots communication is, how much of that has to be done through grassroots channels.”