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UNESCO's Cody Groat presenting certificate to NCTR staff, Elders and Survivors on June 29, 2023

NCTR archival records added to UNESCO Memory Register

Ceremony marks important addition, celebrated by NCTR, Elders and Survivors

June 30, 2023 — 

An emotional ceremony was held  June 29, 2023 to mark the Archival Records of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) being inscribed into the Memory of the World International Register created by UNESCO (United Nations Educations, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). The ceremony and presentation were held on the future home of the NCTR on the Southwood Lands. Survivors, representatives of the NCTR, the University of Manitoba, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, and Indigenous leadership were present at the event.

NCTR’s nomination to include the collection, The Children Speak: Forced Assimilation of Indigenous Children through Canadian Residential Schools, was approved at UNESCO’s 216th Executive Board session. The Register, which serves to safeguard and promote universal access to documentary heritage of global significance, will ultimately create an archive that chronicles the history of the world and the diverse heritage of humanity.

“This is a great honour,” said Stephanie Scott, Executive Director of the NCTR. “The NCTR is the protector of truths for residential school Survivors and preserving their memories is vital as we move forward on the path for truth, reconciliation, and healing, not only across Canada, but globally.”

The ceremony honoured the global significance of the NCTR’s Archives, which represent the first internationally recognized collection to document the colonial attempt to assimilate and erase Indigenous peoples and their cultures, the trauma experienced by Survivors within the residential school system, and its legacy that continues to impact Indigenous communities today.

“As a Survivor, our truths and values are recognized and celebrated on the world stage with this honour,” noted Elder Florence Paynter. “It is a time to reflect on the children who were lost in the residential school system — we are ensuring that their voices are heard and will never be forgotten for the rest of time.”

UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme began in 1992 as an initiative to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage. The programme promotes universal access to materials with scientific, educational, aesthetic and cultural value, protecting them from the destructive forces of war, social upheaval, and other natural and human-caused disasters.

“In this era of reconciliation and Indigenous cultural revitalization, the archival records of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation remain an irreplaceable repository for individual and collective memories,” said Cody Groat, Chair of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Advisory Committee for the programme, member of Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve and whose grandparents were also survivors of the Mohawk Institute Residential School.

“Families such as mine, who remain as intergenerational survivors have known that these records are vital to our future place in society as Indigenous people, but now we can proudly affirm that the international community recognizes this, as well.”

Elders Harry Bone, Florence and Phillip Paynter, Survivor Maata Evaluardjuk-Palmer, singer April Slater of Peguis First Nation, Head of Archives for NCTR, Raymond Frogner, MMF Minister, Residential & Day Schools, Andrew Carrier, AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and Gayle Gruben of the Manitoba Inuit Association spoke or took part in the ceremony.

NCTR’s submission is one of 64 documents added this year and the first set of documents to be added to the register since 2017.

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