Richard Hardy thumbs pages of photographs and letters collected and bound together in what he considers his life’s work, Mǫ́lazha, a memoir he recently published.
“I wanted to be sure that what happened to us, particularly in Grollier Hall, which is a student residence,” Hardy said. “A number of us were seriously violated and so I want to make sure that that story is there forever.”
According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Grollier Hall in Inuvik, N.W.T., “was the site of many acts of sexual and psychological abuse.”
It was mainly operated by the Catholic Church until the territorial government took over operations in the 1970s.
His book, Mǫ́lazha (Child of a Whiteman), is a memoir of his time at Grollier Hall and that includes Mackenzie River Métis history and lived truth as a residential school survivor.
Hardy explores his ancestry dating back to the 1850s, life growing up in Tulita, Northwest Territories in the remote Métis and Shúhtaot’ine -mountain dene community and his lived experiences as a residential school survivor.
Hardy also documents generations of family and community members who worked in the fur trade industry for the Hudson Bay Company.
“Some of the stories I have in the book were things that my mother told me verbally and we don’t seem to have that verbal tradition that strong anymore. I chose to put many of those stories in the book so it’s there in black and white forever,” he said.
He also examines his own family Métis history.
“These were called Indian residential schools and the government of Canada paid to the churches to take the Indian and Inuit children in,” Hardy said. But because we were not Indians if we wanted to go to school and we were not destitute as a family, then we had to pay for to go there.”
In preparation for the novel, Hardy poured through church archives and family records.
He explains how his family doesn’t know where some aunties and uncles were buried in chapters like the lost Gaduet graves.
“That part of the book came as a result of the discovery of all of the graves across Canada, the old residential schools and then the thought occurred to me do we know where all our family is buried,” he said.
Although he’s a first-time author, during his 35-plus-years as a lawyer he spoke his truth about the physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse he and others endured at the notorious Grollier Hall in Inuvik N.W.T.
Mólazha references Hardy’s 1998 open letter to the Roman Catholic Church and its repeated failure to be accountable for what happened.
“I still blame the church for what happened to us. […] even after the perpetrators were caught and sent to jail, they still did not even acknowledge it to us, or try to give us any counseling or come out and say this is not your fault,” he said.
In 1962 at 15 years old, Hardy joined other students who shared accounts of the horrific abuse endured in the sex abuse trial of Martin Houston, a dorm supervisor at Grollier Hall.
Hardy’s courage in his writing has already received a good reception from survivors like Sholto Douglas, who attended the book launch in Yellowknife on June, 21.
“It wasn’t a question of not getting this book, but acknowledging, the work because we went to the same residential school,” Douglas said. “I went after the fact of what happened to him. But a lot of this stuff happened with those violations, and it wasn’t easy.”
Hardy said he’ll continue to connect with other residential school Survivors but won’t follow the upcoming papal visit.
“If there’s ever to be any sort of reconciliation with the Catholic Church, there has to be an acknowledgment from the Catholic Church of its role as an institution and everything that was done to the indigenous people of Canada, including Grollier Hall.
“That has never been forthcoming.”