By Sarah Nelson
An infantryman in World War II had a better chance of survival than did a child in an Indian Residential School in Canada in the early 20th century. This legacy inspired Peter Croals, a geologist and development consultant, and Patricia Stirbys, an Indigenous lawyer, to envision a place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come to heal.
According to Croals and Stirbys, the National Healing Forest will be a community-based “necklace” of forests across Canada, contributing to reconciliation for all peoples. As Stirbys put it, “there are a lot of healing properties in forests; in trees.”
Supported by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), the project allows individuals and communities to decide where designated healing forests will be and what they will look like.
During a well-attended presentation at the Table in Perth on Jan. 12 evening, Croals and Stirbys explained that to be part of the project, all you need is a plaque stating that the area is part of the National Healing Forest. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are,” said Stirbys. Plaques, featuring artwork by students at Mortlach School & Riverview Collegiate in Moose Jaw, and Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina, will be available in the coming months from the NCTR website, where participating forests will also be shown on a map.
For more information on the National Healing Forest:
For more on residential schools and the TRC:
Photo by Sarah Nelson: Patricia Stirbys and Peter Croals with event organizer and local artist Susie Osler and Executive Director of the Table Ramsey Hart.