Lawn sign shows support and courts controversy as country struggles with residential school history

A quiet, tree-lined and picturesque street in east London. A not so quiet reminder of Canada’s controversial history with Indigenous peoples -- smack dab in the middle of a front lawn.

Starlight Avenue resident Rachel Larivee makes no apologies for the bright orange sign with bold, black capitalized letters that reads “NO PRIDE IN GENOCIDE.”

“I’m of the opinion that this country was built on the genocide of Indigenous people, and I’m not proud of that,” she said.

With Canada Day approaching, Larivee erected the homemade sign to show support for Indigenous people, and to educate passers-by about Canada’s troubled experiences with residential schools, in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children.

“If we’re hearing and listening to Indigenous people across the country right now who say that they’re hurting and that they’re in mourning, you know at the discovery of these children being found, that we should be sensitive to that. If they’re in mourning, and they’re driving around our cities and our streets, and they’re seeing all of this decor up, it feels to them like we’re not listening.”

Pinned to the sign are pieces of literature with information about residential schools, including information about the former Mount Elgin Residential School west of London.

“I feel very robbed of my culture and my identity because I spent most of my life trying to figure out who I am,” said Yeyatalunyuhe George, a friend of Larivee’s and the granddaughter of a Mount Elgin residential school survivor.

She believes the impact of residential schools stays with families for generations, and only as an adult has she come to understand the lack of affection she received from her father when she was growing up.

“Why we are the way we are. Why I am the way I am. And why I’m having a hard time being affectionate with my kids, because I didn’t get that from my father. Well, it’s history. It’s here, it’s now, it’s my life, I’m living it. My mom - you know like we’re trying to heal and move forward but it’s hard to do that when it just keeps coming right back up.”

Larivee said she plans to keep the sign up until Canada Day.

Canada Day of 2022, that is.