IMPACT

Ex-Birtle Indian Residential School Being Sold On Kijiji For $79,000

07/07/2015 06:34 EDT | Updated 07/08/2015 08:59 EDT

An anonymous seller is pitching a piece of history on Kijiji — albeit a shameful chapter of Canadian history.

The ad describes it as a "great opportunity," a 26-acre farmable property in Birtle, Man. That includes a large, crumbling building that was the former Birtle Indian Residential School, a place where aboriginal children faced forced labour from the 1930s to 1972.

birtle residential school

HuffPost Canada contacted the seller, who would not give his name or any comment about the ad. He previously told The Winnipeg Free Press that he's only selling the property on the popular classifieds site because he couldn't find a realtor who would take it.

"It's an absolutely gorgeous property. We obviously didn't buy it for the history," he told the newspaper.

The property initially went on sale for $99,000, but now it's being pitched for a "firm" $79,000. Here's a look at the interior of the school, recorded in 2012:



The Birtle residential school was a place where aboriginal students learned agricultural methods on a "model farm," according to the Manitoba Historical Society.

But they were also forced to work long hours, doing gruelling physical labour.

Former student Sam Ross ran away from the school in 1959 and told an Indian Affairs agent that he was forced to work "like a hired hand," according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report.

He would toil in the school's barn from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., then again from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., before going back to work there in the late afternoon and the evening.

Art Fourstar, another former student, told the TRC in 2012 that he saw the school in a similar light as he did the provincial jail, The Prince Arthur Herald reported.

Both, he said, had strict schedules and wouldn't allow people to leave.

"What happened to me, Canada?" he told the commission. "You killed my spirit. In its place you put hatred. You put bitterness, anger, revenge — that's what you put there."

The school was operated by the Presbyterian Church in Canada before it was turned over to the federal government in 1969. The government later sold it as a Crown asset in the mid-1970s, according to the Free Press.

Opinions vary on what should happen to this, and other former residential schools.

Some welcome the demolition of the schools, like the St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Alert Bay, B.C. It was torn down in February and Gwawaenuk First Nation hereditary chief Robert Joseph told the CBC the building was a "foreboding presence."

"It represented all that was wrong with Canada during that time and all that was terrible between First Nations people and other Canadians," Joseph told the network.

However others, like former Birtle student James Cote, a councillor with the Waywayseecappo First Nation, say the structure should be upgraded and treated as a heritage building so that "we can tell [Canadians] this is where we lived," APTN reported.

Here are some more photos of the former Birtle Indian Residential School:

birtle residential school

birtle residential school

birtle residential school

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