Making Space: Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Report in and Beyond the Classroom through Practice-Based Research



In a graduate-level Digital Storytelling course in the Department of Communication at the Université de Montréal, the first project I assign is called a “Collective Experimental Story.” The intention of this project is to introduce students to collaborative storytelling and to explore a platform that enables participatory forms of presentation and co-creation. I enter into this experimental process with students. In Fall 2021, I proposed that the project respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Reading Challenge. From 2008 to 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission produced a report documenting the history and ongoing impacts of the country’s residential school system on First Nations. This report includes 94 Calls to Action, including a call for teachers at all levels to address these histories and their effects in the classroom. Students in my course were excited by this proposal. Over the first seven weeks of the course, we read the report, defined the objective and approach of our project, conducted research and development to identify a suitable platform, and divided tasks. We used Gather Town—an online meeting platform that boasts an old-school pixelated video game interface—to stage a live event. The goal was to share what we had learned and to open space for dialogue. Participants circulated as avatars in our simulated spaces. In this article, four of us who were involved in the project describe our practice-based research process.

Author Biographies

Natalie Doonan, Assistant Professor

Natalie Doonan is a new media and performance artist, writer, and educator. Her research-creation focuses on food and the senses, technology, and the vitality of places. Natalie’s work has been shown in exhibitions and festivals across Canada and internationally. Her writing has appeared in professional and peer reviewed art and food culture publications. She is assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the Université de Montréal.

Sara Bouvelle

Sara Bouvelle holds a Master's degree in Comparative Literature from the Université de Montréal. She is currently working on her Master's in Japanese Animation. Her research centres around practices of space-making and its ties with memory and identity, with a particular interest in fantasy and popular culture. Her PhD thesis will focus on landscape aesthetics in classic fantasy literature.

Gaëlle Issa

Gaëlle Issa holds a Diploma in Arts, Creation, and Technology from the Université de Montréal. She left her home in Lebanon to pursue studies in interactive arts in Montreal after exploring film studies and directing an award-winning short. As a people-oriented artist with a penchant for storytelling, her art is driven by the diverse people she encounters and their unique experiences. 

Mariana Villarreal Herrera

Mariana Villarreal Herrera is a Master's student at the Université de Montréal. She is interested in media studies, social justice, and culture. Her professional background includes a career in advertising and public relations, where she gained vast experience with developing messaging and communication strategies for different stakeholders.