By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
Shaun Vincent points to his computer monitor at soaring eagles, salmon and a caribou herd that appear as if they are moving together in a brilliant blue circle.
The Winnipeg-based Métis graphic designer knows the weight the image in front of him holds — it is the logo for the Pope’s upcoming visit to Canada.
No other papal visit has had a logo like the swirling blue image that Vincent designed. Each line and curve hold meaning for Indigenous Peoples across the country, materializing as a great circular tide moving in tandem with peace doves and a set of keys to represent the Roman Catholic Church.
Vincent, 45, is an accomplished designer who has partnered with Indigenous communities and organizations for years. But when he was first approached to create imagery for the historic papal visit, Vincent says he declined the offer.
“This one scared me a little bit, considering what is at stake.”
Vincent is from St. Laurent, a small community northwest of Winnipeg on the shores of Lake Manitoba that was settled by Metis families in the early 1800s. He remains connected to his land and culture, which informs his designs.
He has worked closely with residential school survivors and elders and created the design layout for the National Residential School Memorial Register, which collected the names of each child who died at the institutions.
Vincent, like many people across the country, has been following closely as Canada and the Catholic Church reckon with their history and the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of numerous former residential schools.
He watched from Manitoba as Pope Francis, earlier this year at the Vatican, apologized for the deplorable conduct of church members involved in those institutions.
Vincent says he asked himself what role, if any, he should take when Francis brings that apology to Canada in person. He consulted knowledge keepers, survivors and his family as he grappled with the decision.
They encouraged him to approach the logo as an opportunity to contribute to healing.
“We are where we are now and we have to go forward together,” Vincent says after a long silence.
The papal visit is set to start in Edmonton on July 24 and end in Iqaluit on July 29. It is to include public and private events with an emphasis on Indigenous participation. It’s expected Francis will deliver the apology at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis in Alberta.
Along each stop of the journey, Vincent knows his design will be on full display. It’s a responsibility he reflected on deeply as he put pencil to paper.
“If you are coming here, if you are coming on this land, it needs to represent this land and (these) Peoples,” Vincent says.
He says he thought of family and friends. He thought of traditions and teachings. He thought of the grandfather drum that gives rhythm to dance, circles of flowered beadwork and a circle of outstretched arms while throat singing under the sun.
Vincent explains that in a circle, all are equal. All are visible.
Then, Vincent says, he looked to plants and animals that have symbolism across many Indigenous nations.
“The idea of walking together, it happens in a lot of different communities in a lot of different ways,” he says. “For me, I pictured more herds, more groups of animals and how they support each other.”
To the circular image he added eagles, which dance together in the sky and represent a connection to the Creator. He drew bison, which symbolize the support and strength of a herd. He sketched caribou, which persevere on harsh lands to find what they need to survive, along with Arctic char and salmon, which represent sustenance and the strength of great migrations.
Vincent says he chose the colour blue to bring the calming nature of water and air.
“(It) reinforces this idea that we all should be taking a breath and try to heal in all possible ways.”
The final design was approved by a committee that included elders and survivors.
Vincent says the logo is ready to go out into the world but, he says, it will develop new meanings to different people during the Pope’s visit.
He has faith it will bring healing.
“I’m scared a little bit, but I’m hopeful,” he says.
“I hope everyone sees it for the good that I was trying to put into it and that’s all I can really hope for.”