Survivors’ flag planted on Parliament Hill

By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It was an emotional moment for many Residential School Survivors last Monday in Ottawa when the federal government raised a Survivors’ Flag to honour those who lived through the horrors of Residential Schools and the intergenerational trauma that followed.

The bright-orange flag, designed in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, with each element of the design approved by the group that was consulted. The elements include a depiction of a family with seeds beneath them meant to represent the spirits of children who never returned home.

A Survivor’s Flag, to honour those who lived through the Indian Residential School system, has been raised on Parliament Hill. The orange and white flag depicts multiple elements to acknowledge the enduring trauma. – Marc Lalonde photo

A Residential School Survivor said true reconciliation must start with the admission of the atrocities committed on Indigenous children in those institutions – atrocities that have rung down through generations and continue to resonate in First Nations communities across Canada today.

“Reconciliation must start with the truth – a truth that I and thousands of Survivors lived through and continue to feel; a truth that was thought to have perished along with the thousands of children who never returned home,” said Jimmy Durocher, a Metis Residential School Survivor. “Many still don’t know. It is the responsibility of our government, our churches, and our collective peoples to uncover the truth and honour the children.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the daily reminder of the shameful part of Canadian history is a sombre daily reminder for elected officials of past policies.

“Residential Schools are a shameful part of our history – that is the truth the Survivors’ Flag is going to remind us of, every day, here on Parliament Hill. By raising this flag here today, we’re saying: we will always remember. We will continue to listen to survivors,” Trudeau said. “We acknowledge the intergenerational trauma these so-called schools have caused. And we commit to continue working together as partners toward a future of healing and partnership.”

The executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Stephanie Scott said the flag is an emblem of the country’s “complicated journey.” 

“The Survivors created this flag as a symbol of the complicated journey we are on together toward healing. I know the Survivors’ Flag flying on Parliament Hill will serve as a reminder to all of us that we must continue to hear and understand the truth of Residential Schools,” she said. “When Canadians witness the flag, they must reflect on actions that they can take as individuals in all capacities on our shared path of reconciliation.”

In her remarks, Scott asked elected officials to take a moment while going about their work to pause when they see the flag.

“Pause and reflect about the truth that still remains to be told and about the hard work that still must be done,” Scott said.

The flag will fly near West Block and the Visitor Welcome Centre on Parliament Hill until 2024, when a decision will be made to find its permanent home.