HALIFAX — Five Halifax venues have responded to Tragically Hip rocker Gord Downie's call on corporate Canada to do more to promote dialogue and reconciliation with Aboriginal people.
The Legacy Room initiative, part of the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, announced new locations Friday including a Halifax private school, a university, an accounting outlet, a restaurant and a development firm.
Charlene Bearhead, co-chairwoman of the fund, said the spaces will encourage conversations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and raise awareness of the legacy of residential schools.
"Being angry or shamed, shaming white people or re-traumatizing Indigenous people, it doesn't serve us collectively," she said during an interview.
"These spaces are about building relationships and encouraging learning and awareness."
The five Halifax locations, the Armbrae Academy, the Barrington Steak House and Oyster Bar, the library at Dalhousie University, Deloitte Atlantic Canada and the Waterfront Development Corp., join three legacy rooms established in Ontario and aboard the Canada C3 ship travelling from Toronto to Victoria, bringing the total to nine rooms across the country.
The host of each Legacy Room has committed to an annual donation of $5,000 over five years, which will go towards grassroots reconciliation programs to support healing and recovery.
The fund honours 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 after running away from a residential school near Kenora, Ont.
The Canadian government launched the residential school system in the 19th century. Over decades, about 150,000 Indigenous children were removed from their homes and sent to religious boarding schools.
Away from their families and native culture, many students lived in horrific conditions and endured severe abuse. The impact of residential schools continues to be felt today.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said the idea of reconciliation in Canada is a way for citizens to realize reconciliation can be part of their daily lives.
"The power of the legacy rooms is that they bring reconciliation home right to the middle of our community, at a steak house or at the library, and make reconciliation part of peoples lives on a day-to-day basis," he said.
"It gives them a handle to grab onto and a lever to make change."
The Legacy Room idea is the brainchild of Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Morley Googoo, who represents Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he's hopeful the idea will continue to gain momentum in Halifax and across Canada.
"The history of our place didn't begin in the 1600s or with what is called the founding of Halifax or Dartmouth," he said.
"For many thousands of years before the arrival of European ships, the Mi'kmaq have inhabited these lands and while our shared history has many difficult chapters, I believe that we can co-operatively forge a better way forward."
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