Ottawa, May 29, 2023 – At its 216th Executive Board session, UNESCO approved the nomination to inscribe the Archival Records of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) into the Memory of the World International Register. The register serves to safeguard and promote access to documentary heritage of global significance: archives that chronicle the history of the world and the heritage of humanity.
This international inscription recognizes the global significance of the NCTR’s Archives as a body of evidence and knowledge that documents the colonial attempt to assimilate and erase Indigenous peoples and their cultures, a human rights violation with parallels around the world. The Children Speak: Forced Assimilation of Indigenous Children through Canadian Residential Schools represents the first internationally recognized collection that documents the trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples through the Canadian residential school system, and its legacy that continues to impact Indigenous communities today.
In 2015, at the conclusion of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) six-year investigation into the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system, seven thousand residential school Survivors’ statements, historical documents, over 40 000 photographs and other materials collected were transferred to the NCTR’s Archives for safekeeping. This publicly accessible collection, which is in ongoing development as records pertaining to unmarked burials at the residential schools are obtained, holds national and international value as a tool for reconciliation through research and education.
“The magnitude of the NCTR’s archives reflects the incredible strength of residential school Survivors in speaking out about their experiences. I’m certain that the inclusion of the NCTR’s archives in the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register can serve to honor and amplify their voices on a global level.” – Natasha Cayer, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Canada to UNESCO
“International recognition for this archival collection is an important milestone on the path towards truth and reconciliation. Too often, the voices of children and their experiences are lost from our historical memory. We can now be comforted in knowing that there are further safeguards in place to assure the truth of their experiences are safeguarded.” – Cody Groat, Chair, Canadian Advisory Committee for Memory of the World
“The NCTR is honoured that our Archives have been inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register. We are the protector of truths for residential school Survivors and preserving their memories is vital as we move forward on the path for truth, reconciliation and healing, not only across Canada, but globally.” – Stephanie Scott, Executive Director, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
“As a Survivor, our truths and values are recognized and celebrated on the world stage with this honour. It is a time to reflect on the children who were lost in the residential school system – we are ensuring that their voices are heard and will never be forgotten for the rest of time.” – Elder Florence Paynter, Survivor
About UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme
UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme was initiated in 1992 to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage. The programme promotes universal access to materials with scientific, educational, aesthetic and cultural value, protecting them from the destructive forces of war, social upheaval, and other natural and human-caused disasters. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO maintains the Canada Memory of the World Register (in which the NCTR archives have been inscribed since 2019), while UNESCO (based in Paris) is responsible for the International Memory of the World Register. A listing of archives added to the UNESCO International Memory of the World Register between 1992-2017 can be accessed here. May 2023 marks the first additions to the international register since 2017.
About the Canadian Commission for UNESCO
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO serves as a bridge between Canadians and the vital work of UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Through its networks and partners, the Commission promotes UNESCO’s values, priorities and programs in Canada and brings the voices of Canadian experts to the international stage. It operates under the authority of the Canada Council for the Arts.
About the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was created as part of the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). The TRC was charged to listen to Survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the residential school system and educate Canadians about their experiences. The resulting collection of statements, documents and other materials now forms the sacred heart of the NCTR.
The NCTR Archives and Collections is the foundation for ongoing learning and research. Here, Survivors, their families, educators, researchers, and the public can examine the residential school system more deeply with the goal of fostering reconciliation and healing.
For further information:
Guardians of our Knowledge: Article by Cody Groat on the history of the Memory of the World Program and the Canadian Advisory Committee’s work to recognize Indigenous forms of documentary heritage
List of all 64 new inscriptions to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register
Manager, Public Affairs
Canadian Commission for UNESCO
Director, Communications and Digital Strategy
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation