City of Edmonton plans to remove murals depicting residential school system from downtown LRT station

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The City of Edmonton plans to remove the murals depicting the residential school system from the Government Center LRT station later this fall.

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The murals have been covered in orange signs since City Council voted unanimously to darken them and remove the reference in the light rail station’s name to Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, who was an advocate of the residential school system in June.

After discussions with the Grandin Working Circle and other stakeholders, the city announced its intention to remove the original three sections of the mural in a press release Thursday.

The original wall space will remain covered in orange as the working circle continues to determine a new name and vision for the station. Métis Elder and Circle of Labor member Dr. Terry Lusty said the murals which “glorify one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system” have caused distress to survivors and their families.

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“With no intention of offending anyone, but in an effort to address the discomfort and re-traumatization of survivors, it has been decided to remove the images causing grief and possibly replace them with images more acceptable ones that are yet to be determined,” Lusty said in the press release.

The murals were installed on the west wall of what was then known as the Grandin LRT station in 1989 to commemorate Alberta’s Francophone history and heritage. The mural included an image of Grandin and depicted the residential school system.

Grandin, who lived in St. Albert, lobbied the federal government to invest in the practice of separating Indigenous children from their families and removing them from their culture.

The decision to cover the murals and remove his name from city property came after the discovery of 215 children buried at a former boarding school site in Kamloops in May.

The controversial mural was covered up hours after the city council voted, and crews immediately began removing references to Grandin from maps and transit system signs.

The work installed at the Government LRT station in 2014 by artists Sylvie Nadeau and Aaron Paquette remains.

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Jeremy S. McLain