By Mary Flynn, Congregational Archivist
On September 1st 2020, Parks Canada declared the site of the former Shubenacadie Residential School a national historic site. The nomination was made by the co-chair of the Tripartite Culture and Heritage Working Committee of the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum on behalf of the survivors of the school and their families. Shubenacadie Residential School opened in 1930 and was staffed by the Sisters of Charity – Halifax until it closed in 1967. The building was torn down in 1986 and a factory sits on the site. Portage La Prairie Residential School in Manitoba was also declared a national historic site and the Residential School System was declared a national historic event.
The Indian Residential School system was established in 1867 with the goal of assimilating Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian society through its church-run, government-funded institutions. From its establishment until the closure of the last federally-run school in 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were placed in residential schools across Canada. The students were punished for speaking their language, denied access to their culture and families, and, in many cases, suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was active from 2008 until 2015, when it produced a final report and 94 Calls to Action. These three new historic designations are a response to Call to Action #79, which asks the federal government to “integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history” and create a “national heritage plan and strategy for commemorating residential school sites, the history and legacy of residential schools, and the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.”
In the summer of 2019, a historian from Parks Canada travelled to Nova Scotia to research the school building and site and in support of the nomination, we opened our archives. While our archival records tell only a small fragment of the 37 year history of Shubenacadie School, it was important to share this part of our Congregational and shared Canadian history.
To learn more about Shubenacadie Residential School and its national historic site designation, please view this video from Mi’kmawey Debert.