‘Reconciliation Bridge’ is the new name for a bridge in the heart of the city of Calgary, Alberta.
Formerly called the Langevin Bridge, the name was changed in a move toward ‘reconciliation’.
“I hope, to mark the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 7 and the 150th birthday of this great nation”
Hector-Louis Langevin was one of the Fathers of Confederation in 1867, and a Conservative cabinet minister. He served as secretary of state for the provinces when the country’s residential schools were introduced. The Langevin block, home to the Prime Minister’s office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, is also named after him.
Over the years more than 130 residential schools operated across Canada. The federal government estimates at least 150,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit students were forced into the system. The last school, near Regina, Saskatchewan, closed in 1996.
Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities by force, around the ages of 5 or 6, and sent to residential schools where the objective was rid to the child of their native heritage.
Parents and families left behind fell into despair. Many didn’t see their children until several years later, and were by then unable to communicate as the children had forgotten the language, forbidden to speak their mother tongues in the schools.
“It can be simple to do the right thing”
On Monday, Calgary’s city council voted to change the name, with very little debate and only one councillor opposed.
“This stuff can be very easy, it can be simple to do the right thing,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who brought forward the motion, told CBC News.
The new name for the bridge comes from Canada’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘, which looked into the history and horrors of Canada’s infamous residential schools, as well as how to heal the wounds left in their wake.
Justice Murray Sinclair, Canada’s first aboriginal justice and the commission’s chairman, led the process from 2008 to 2013. The final report was released in 2015, with 95 Calls to Action.
Calgary’s city council will now work with First Nations and the Calgary Heritage Authority to publicise the story of the bridge and the reasons why the name was changed.
“And then I hope, to mark the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 7 and the 150th birthday of this great nation, that in 2017 we’ll have a proper re-dedication ceremony,” Nenshi told reporters.