Royal Roads University recently installed a monument to residential school survivors, and ongoing reconciliation, the “Witness Blanket”. The riveting installation was on display at the Royal Roads Library August 1 – September 5, 2017. For more information, and other tour dates please visit www.witnessblanket.ca
Statement to the House:
“If the Witness Blanket fosters awareness in one person who is just learning about this difficult part of Canadian history, or touches a residential school survivor or one of their family members, it has made a difference.” Those are the words of Carey Newman, the artist who created the Witness Blanket.
The Witness Blanket is an incredible large-scale art installation that recounts true stories of loss, strength, trauma, resilience and experience of the residential school system. It includes reclaimed items from residential schools, churches, government buildings, and traditional and cultural structures from across Canada, as well as pieces created especially for the blanket. It is comprised of 13 panels displaying over 800 artifacts and is 12 metres wide by 2 metres high — truly impressive in so many ways.
The inspiration comes from a woven blanket. The blanket is a universal symbol of protection and comfort for young and for old. The art installation is a national monument. It stands to recognize the atrocities of the residential school system, and it signals the start of the path to reconciliation.
We were fortunate, in the constituency of Esquimalt-Metchosin, to have recently had the Witness Blanket exhibited at Royal Roads University, itself a national historic site. The opening event included a blessing, traditional dancing and an excerpt from a film about the making of the blanket, all of which added to the impact of the art and learning about the hundreds of components of this blanket.
In the words of the amazing artist, Carey Newman, he “created this monument to reflect the strength of my people, and it is my hope that everyone who stands in witness of this piece will be affected in some way.”