Birtle Residential School

Birtle Residential School in Birtle, Manitoba, is on the 2019 Top 10 Endangered Places List.

Published with permission from the National Trust for Canada

June 18, 2019

Location

Birtle, Manitoba

Why it matters

One of 14 residential schools that operated in Manitoba, Birtle Residential School is one of just three still standing, alongside those in Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg.

Operating from 1889 to 1972, the imposing three-storey brick building which now stands on the site was completed in 1931 and now sits within a complex of other educational and agricultural buildings.

The Birtle Residential School had a profoundly traumatic impact on generations of Indigenous peoples in Western Manitoba and beyond.

Why it’s endangered

Sold by the federal government in 1975, the second owner of the school property began demolishing the interior of the building, but then abandoned the project about 15 years ago.

It has since sat empty and open to the elements with its windows broken, the interior heavily vandalized, and evidence of its dark history being lost.

The former school made national headlines in 2015 when the second owner put the property up for sale on Kijiji, and subsequently changed hands in 2016.

Consensus has not yet emerged in the local Indigenous community about whether the former school should be preserved as a site of memory and conscience.

Until that happens, the site needs to be secured and stabilized to ensure the historic fabric is not further eroded.

This article is also available in French.

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Every year, the National Trust publishes its Top 10 Endangered Places List as part of its mission to raise awareness of the value that historic places bring to quality of life, local identity and cultural vitality.

The Top 10 Endangered Places List is compiled from nominations received as well as from reports and news items the National Trust has been following throughout the year. First published in 2005, the Top 10 Endangered Places List has become a powerful tool in the fight to make landmarks, not landfill.

The National Trust believes that historic places are cornerstones of identity, community and sense of place, yet every year, more are lost due to neglect, lack of funding, inappropriate development and weak legislation. By shining a spotlight on places at risk, the Top 10 Endangered Places List raises awareness about their plight and bolsters the efforts of local advocates working to save them.

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