Vive Le Canada

St. Albert Healing Garden Is Necessary
Date: Thursday, November 03 2016
Topic:


The St. Albert Healing Garden, meant to be a way of recognizing the abuse and torment that Indigenous survivors of the residential school system endured, has had a rough ride lately. The committee overseeing the Garden ended up having to come back to City Council for more funding after geotechnical reports showed that new pilings would be needed for the construction, because of the high water tables. Council balked at the increased cost, and asked the committee to try to find another site. Residential school survivors working with the committee described the incident as a ‘slap in the face’. Meanwhile, some residents are questioning the amount of money we’re spending on the Garden and whether the Garden is even necessary.

The St. Albert Healing Garden, meant to be a way of recognizing the abuse and torment that Indigenous survivors of the residential school system endured, has had a rough ride lately. The committee overseeing the Garden ended up having to come back to City Council for more funding after geotechnical reports showed that new pilings would be needed for the construction, because of the high water tables. Council balked at the increased cost, and asked the committee to try to find another site. Residential school survivors working with the committee described the incident as a ‘slap in the face’. Meanwhile, some residents are questioning the amount of money we’re spending on the Garden and whether the Garden is even necessary.

The Garden is necessary both as a reminder of our past, and the need to establish a better future. Canada has established many memorials to past historic tragedies, such as the Frog Lake massacre that occurred during the Riel Resistance in 1885. The area where the massacre took place is now recognized as a national historic and heritage site. More recent tragedies have also been memorized, such as the December 6, 1989 Ecole polytechnique massacre in Montreal, where 14 women were murdered. The day of the massacre has also been memorialized by Parliament declaring that December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and by multiple vigils and ceremonies that have occurred since then.

We recognize these events both because of the impacts they had on the people who were affected by them, and what they mean for the larger society. The Frog Lake massacre is tied up with the need to respect Indigenous Treaty rights. The Ecole polytechnique massacre is tied up with the issue of violence against women. In the Healing Garden’s case, it is tied up with the effects the residential schools have had on their survivors, ranging from substance abuse to family dysfunction, causing problems that can impact multiple generations even today.

The Healing Garden’s importance is like those of the memorials to these other tragedies. It is a reminder of an ugly part of Canadian and St. Albert history, one that still impacts not just the lives of the survivors, but the lives of those close to them. We have a lot to celebrate in St. Albert and in Canada, but we also need to remember the darker parts of our history too. Memorials like the Garden keep us from forgetting our past, and remind us of the need to build a better future.

The problems caused by the geotechnical fiasco have obscured this. It would have been better had City administration got it right the first time, but the Garden’s full costs should be paid and built, in recognition of this part of St. Albert history and the modern issues we are still dealing with.

The unfortunate issues are still with us, but so too is the potential to do things better.

This article was originally published in the St. Albert Gazette on October 5, 2016 and is available online at http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/Healing-Garden-is-necessary-20161005.






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