Canada Post stamps illuminate painful truths
By Molly Goad
Canada Post has issued four new stamps to call attention to the grim truths of the residential school system developed by the federal government and Christian churches between the 1830s and 1990s. During that time frame, more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were taken from their homes and sent to the schools.
The stamps were issued Sept. 28 ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 and are the second issue in the annual series for the future of truth and reconciliation.
The first four Truth and Reconciliation stamps (Scott 3350-3353) were issued Sept. 29, 2022, in a booklet of eight. Similarly, the four new nondenominated, permanent-rate (currently 92¢) stamps also are sold in a single booklet of eight.
The residential school system was set up to educate and assimilate Indigenous youth into Canadian society. The institutions were not a happy place for the children, as they were forced to abandon their languages, cultures and spiritual traditions. Many students became ill and were abused physically, sexually and emotionally. According to the online Canadian Encyclopedia, an estimated 6,000 children died at the schools.
An article on the Canada Post Magazine blog said the stamps stress the importance of truth as a precursor to reconciliation. That includes coming to terms with the history of the residential school system and its lasting impact on the survivors and their families.
The stamps were developed in collaboration with the Survivors Circle of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, as well as external reviewers and scholars Crystal Gail Fraser and Tricia Logan.
“It’s got to be very difficult to put a story to a little stamp but at least it’ll open the door to discussion right across our country … This discussion needs to happen because that’s where the truth will come out,” said Jim Durocher, former member of the Survivors Circle.
At its height around 1930, the school system comprised 80 institutions. The Roman Catholic Church operated 60 percent of the schools, the Anglican Church 25 percent and the United and Presbyterian Churches the remainder (source: the Canadian Encyclopedia).
The stamps display archival photographs from four of the Roman Catholic schools: Kam-loops Residential School, Ile-a-la-Crosse Residential School, Sept-Iles Residential School and Grollier Hall (Inuvik, Northwest Territories).
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