Canada’s newest “Heritage Minute,” released on the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, shines a light on one of the darker chapters of Canada’s history.
Titled Chanie Wenjack, the piece highlights the horror of Canada’s residential schools through the story of the fatal escape attempt by a young First Nations boy in 1966.
Narrated by Chanie’s sister, the video opens with him fleeing through the brush, before cutting back to show the indignities and abuses he faced at Ontario’s Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School.
It ends with a haunting shot of the young boy’s lifeless body on the side of a railroad track, with the script “A part of our heritage” on screen.
“I survived residential school,” says his sister Pearl Achneepineskum. “My brother Chanie did not.”
Canada’s last residential school closed in 1996, but it wasn’t until more than a decade later, in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology on behalf of the country.
Last June, the long awaited Truth and Reconciliation Commission report into the horrors of the residential school system and its legacy was released, labeling it “nothing short of cultural genocide.”
The more than 380 page report made 94 recommendations, including reducing the number of aboriginal children in foster care, and teaching the history of residential schools as a part of school curriculums.
Historica Canada, which produces the heritage minutes, also released a second indigenous-focused piece today titled “Treaty.”