Paths to Reconciliation

“We chose [the slogan] ‘every child matters’ because I talked about how I felt that I didn’t matter when I was in residential school. We weren’t hugged. We weren’t consoled. We could be half-dead and we weren’t tended to.” — Phyllis Webstad, creator of Orange Shirt Day

In 2019, in response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic, alongside aligned partners and supported by the Government of Canada, developed a comprehensive program to guide learners down the path of reconciliation by acknowledging and sharing the truth of Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Through cinematography, cartography, interactive web tools, bilingual multimedia storytelling and educational toolkits, Paths to Reconciliation highlights the experiences of Indian Residential School Survivors and their families and shares information to support ongoing work to locate, protect and commemorate unmarked burials of missing children associated with former residential schools. 

Journalistic storytelling

Print features
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Canadian Geographic has published two feature stories related to the Paths to Reconciliation initiative. The first, a profile of Orange Shirt Day creator and residential school Survivor Phyllis Webstad by Lisa Charleyboy, appeared in the May/June 2020 issue, accompanied by a pull-out poster map of residential schools not recognized by the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.  The second feature, written by Danielle Paradis, was published in the January/February 2023 issue and profiled Indigenous journalists who are investigating and revealing the crimes committed at Indian Residential Schools through podcasts. It was accompanied by a map of unmarked graves and burial sites associated with former Indian Residential Schools. 

Reach: 4,000,000+ readers per issue (print & digital)

Educational resources

Lesson plans
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Thoughtful lesson plans developed in collaboration with Indigenous educators, knowledge keepers and Elders, as well as Indian Residential School Survivors and their families, provide students an opportunity to learn, reflect on and think about lesser-known stories about the Indian Residential School system and about ongoing efforts to support Survivors, Indigenous families and communities. In addition to lesson plans, associated classroom resources, activities and and maps are available, for free, through the Paths to Reconciliation website.

Reach: 1,000+ downloads


Poster map & in situ map
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Cartographer Chris Brackley developed two companion maps to support and enhance the journalistic storytelling around Paths to Reconciliation in Canadian Geographic. The first features hundreds of residential schools that were never recognized in the federal government’s original reports — or its settlement agreement — because they were run by the provinces or other organizations. It appeared as a pull-out poster map in the May/June 2020 issue of the magazine. The second, developed in partnership with the Office of the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites Associated with Indian Residential Schools, features both IRSSA and non-IRSSA-recognized schools as well as the locations of active and completed searches for unmarked graves and burial sites associated with the schools. It appeared in the January/February 2023 issue alongside a feature on how Indigenous journalists are reclaiming the narrative around residential schools through podcasting. 

Reach: 1,889,000 + monthly readers (print)

Videography & film

Returning Home

Returning Home follows Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Jack Webstad on a cathartic, nationwide educational tour while, back home in Secwépemc territory, her family struggles to deal with the multigenerational trauma of Canada’s residential school system. Directed by Secwépemc filmmaker Sean Stiller and produced by Canadian Geographic Films, the documentary, shot during the COVID-19 pandemic amid one of the lowest salmon runs in recorded history, masterfully connects Canada’s colonial history with the plight of Pacific wild salmon in B.C.’s Fraser River. 

Awards and accolades:
2022 – Best Canadian Documentary at Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver international film festivals
2022 – Best Living with Wildlife Program at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana 
2022 – Voted among the Audience Top 20 at Hot Docs in Toronto

Digital engagement

Paths to Reconciliation website
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The Paths to Reconciliation website houses interactive versions of the maps of non-IRSSA-recognized Indian Residential Schools in Canada and unmarked graves and burial sites associated with former residential schools. School histories, Survivor stories and archival materials are integrated into each map, and the site also includes links to educational resources and other sources of information to support student and adult learning.

Reach: 45,000 + views

Social media reach
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