Mayor Jim Watson, federal dignitaries including Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Dr. Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, artist Carey Newman and Elder Irvin Sarazin officially welcomed the Witness Blanket to Ottawa City Hall today.
The Witness Blanket is a monumental art installation created by Master Carver Carey Newman and commissioned by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It incorporates more than 800 artifacts from individuals and buildings gathered from across Canada—all of which tell a piece of the story of the Residential School system. The pieces are mounted on cedar panels, and are ‘woven’ together to create a historical blanket of shared memories. The Blanket reflects the tragic story of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and their families who were impacted by the Indian Residential Schools from the 1870s to the 1990s.
“The City of Ottawa is honoured to display the Witness Blanket so residents and visitors can explore it and experience its powerful messages of loss, grief, strength, reconciliation and hope,” said Mayor Watson. “I encourage everyone to come to City Hall during the next six weeks and spend some time learning from this remarkable artwork. I’m sure it will touch you profoundly.”
Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said: “The Witness Blanket exhibition is a fitting first event as we begin to mark the end of six years of our Commission’s work. We have revealed to Canadians the complex truth about the history and the ongoing legacy of the church-run residential schools, and begun the historic process of healing and reconciliation.”
“It has been my honour to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation process and to provide a tangible visual legacy for the many, poignant stories that survivors from across the country have shared through this process,” said Mr. Newman. “The Blanket is meant to bear eternal witness to this important part of Canadian history. It is also meant to create awareness and encourage open conversation. Here in Ottawa, at the seat of the government that created the Indian Residential School system, we honour the survivors and the children who were lost and move forward with hope for true reconciliation and a better future.”
The son of a residential-school survivor, Mr. Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme) aims to showcase the Witness Blanket across Canada on a seven-year national tour and is producing a documentary on the artifact gathering process.
The Witness Blanket will be on display at City Hall until July 9 as part of a planned seven-year cross-Canada tour. Next stop for the Blanket will be in Hamilton, Ontario.