media release

Residential school survivor visits SFU

September 10, 2013

Brenda Morrison, 778.782.7627, 778.668.1827,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


The public and the media are invited to witness a history-making event at Simon Fraser University tomorrow and Friday as part of the lead up to the university’s involvement in Reconciliation Week, Sept. 16-22.

At the invitation of SFU criminologist Brenda Morrison, Isadore Charters, an Aboriginal artist, elder and Indian Residential School (IRS) survivor, will be at Saywell Hall First Nations Atrium, Burnaby campus, 10 am - 4 pm both days.

Charters, the creator of a 200-year-old, eight-foot, yellow cedar Residential School Healing Pole will be bringing the pole, a symbolic conduit for fostering understanding about the impact of Canada’s IRS system, with him. A 30-minute documentary about Charters' healing journey with the pole will also be set up for public viewing.

The Chilliwack-area resident started carving the healing pole last year to tell the story of his eight-year experience as a Kamloops residential school student and portray his journey toward healing.

By travelling through the province with his artwork in progress and inviting residential school survivors, their families and non-Aboriginals to discuss the pole and contribute a carving, Charters hopes to foster national healing.

Upon completion, the pole, which will be a featured attraction in upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada events in B.C., will be put on public display.

Along with being publicly available at SFU’s First Nations Atrium, Charters will meet with students in Morrison’s restorative justice classes Wednesday (2:30-5:30 p.m.) and Friday (1:30-2:20 p.m.) in nearby seminar rooms. Media wanting access should contact Morrison for permission.

“This semester the restorative justice students will learn about the process through the lens and experience of Reconciliation Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” says Morrison, a Reconciliation Canada ambassador.

“Students will connect the experience of intergroup harms and healing to interpersonal harms and healing. For example, we will explore the question of why Canada has a disproportional rate of incarceration for Aboriginals.

“This is an important question for all Canadians, young and old, from all traditions and histories.  Our history with the Aboriginal peoples of this land is a common story that we share.”

Charters’ visit is on the eve of SFU Day for Reconciliation, a dialogue officially launching the university’s involvement in Reconciliation Week.

The event is being held in conjunction with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s nationwide initiative promoting public awareness and education about the ongoing impact of residential schools.

For more information about SFU’s involvement in events leading up to the week, see the following websites.

Reconciliation SFU:
Reconciliation Week Events:

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.


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