WINNIPEG - While announcing plans for a monument at the Manitoba legislature commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of Canada’s first treaty, Manitoba’s Indigenous Reconciliation minister says residential schools played a role in genocide. Dr. Alan Lagimodiere says the genocide wasn’t just a scheme to erase Indigenous culture, but to eliminate Indigenous peoples themselves from Canada.
Lagimodiere, who is Métis and grew up in Northern Manitoba, was given the Indigenous reconciliation and northern relations portfolio after the resignation of its previous minister, Eileen Clarke. Shortly after being sworn in, Lagimodiere answered questions from reporters about the residential school system. Among his responses, Lagimodiere said at the time given the current climate, that the people who presided over the schools believed they were “doing the right thing at the time,” and that the schools taught skills to Indigenous children.
Lagimodiere apologized the following day. He says he’s been visiting Indigenous communities and “listening and learning.” Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas says he’s glad the minister is continuing to learn about the historical context behind the schools.
Lagimodiere’s comments come after his acknowledgement of what he calls the “significant and historic milestone” of the signing of Treaty 1, known as the Peguis-Selkirk Treaty, in 1871.
The province has announced a design competition for a monument depicting Chief Peguis to celebrate the event, the first statue of a First Nations person to be featured at the Legislature. The government has committed $500,000 to the project.