July 4, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
Plans for a three-day event to recognize survivors of residential schools, organized by Toronto Council Fire, are underway for mid-October.
According to a promotional video shown at the Government Management Committee on Tuesday, the vision for the event includes changing the Toronto sign from “Toronto” to “Tkaronto,” projecting a turtle on the dome of the rotunda, and keeping the medicine wheel (currently installed beside the Toronto sign).
“As a non-Indigenous person living in this great city, I ask to all of you, where are the Indigenous areas of this city of Toronto? While the city bears the name of Tkaronto, which comes from the Mohawk language, this city has largely displaced Indigenous identity,” Theo Nazary, strategy planner at Toronto Council Fire, told the committee on Tuesday.
The event is part of a plan from the city and Toronto Council Fire to develop the south-west corner of Nathan Phillips Square as a legacy space to honour residential school survivors, and reflects one of the council-endorsed Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, Commission Action #82: “We call upon provincial and territorial governments, in collaboration with Survivors and their organizations, and other parties to the Settlement Agreement, to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
At Tuesday’s committee meeting, design plans for the square were shown, including a sculpture by artist Solomon King that will be 12 feet long and six feet wide, surrounded by a landscaped garden that is being called the Teaching, Learning, Sharing, and Healing space. In a submission to the committee, Toronto Council Fire describes the sculpture by King for Toronto as the “Restoration of Identity structure… recreat[ing] the Turtle climbing over a boulder containing the name of 13 residential schools in Ontario representing the resiliency, recovery and overcoming by residential school survivors.”
The organization presented the October event as part of the lead-up to construction, slated to begin in the spring of 2020 pending consultation and the design review, which may delay the timeline.
The Government Management Committee did however approve a request for $250,000 funding for the event, but according to a report, the city has not made any funding commitments to the monument itself, which has a budget of almost $12 million. The report says the city has identified one way it may cover almost half of the costs (if approved by the next term of council), and the remaining $6 million would be contributed by Toronto Council Fire.
As for the Toronto sign transforming to Tkaronto, along with a medicine wheel and the projection of a turtle on the dome of the rotunda, the city could not confirm any of them will take place.
According to Patrick Tobin, director of arts and culture services for the City of Toronto, many of those details are still in progress as part of discussions between the city and Toronto Council Fire.
“With respect to the having a Tkaronto sign for the Toronto Council Fire event, it is one of a number of options under discussion… The Toronto sign as currently installed will remain intact,” Tobin said via email.
“The Medicine Wheel [first introduced alongside the Toronto sign for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21] will remain next to the sign on Nathan Phillips Square into October so that it is in place during the Indigenous gathering organized by Toronto Council Fire… As public reaction to the Medicine Wheel grows and evolves, the City will collaboratively discuss its permanent positioning with its Indigenous community partners.”
“It is the understanding of City staff that Toronto Council Fire, as the event organizer, has been in contact with possible suppliers for the services necessary for a large-scale projection. Toronto Council Fire continues to work on cost and feasibility,” Tobin said via email.
Recently, City Hall was the backdrop for a projection promoting musician Drake’s album Scorpion.
WATCH: Design plans for Indian Residential School Survivor Legacy Teaching, Learning, Sharing & Healing (TLSH) Space (posted with permission from Toronto Council Fire).