The federal government is planning to commemorate the apology it extended three years ago to former students of Indian residential schools by installing a new a stained glass window in the House of Commons.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan announced the creation of the new window on Thursday at the same time the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a body established at the time of the apology – is meeting this week in Halifax.
“This artwork will be installed permanently in the external widow of the House of Commons entry to the Canadian Parliament,” Mr. Duncan told reporters. “We will commission a panel of art experts that will choose an aboriginal artist to design the window.”
While he did not have a good estimate of the cost, the minister said it will be financed with internal departmental resources and will be installed in 2012.
A recent report by Kairos, a church-based group that lobbies for social justice, said Canada is failing its aboriginal children. The study said some existing first-nations schools are contaminated by black mould and not properly heated. One school was closed due to an infestation of snakes; another is shut down an average of 22 days each year due to a lack of drinking water.
Mr. Duncan was asked whether it would have been more appropriate to commemorate the wrongs of the residential schools by directing money to fix the schools on reserves rather that putting a new window in the Commons.
The minister replied that he is aware of the Kairos report. He pointed out that the government has partnered with the Assembly of First Nations to create a panel that is assessing the situation in reserve schools. And, he said, there will soon be a meeting between the Crown and the first nations at which education will be discussed.
“So we are doing a lot on the education front,” Mr. Duncan said.