Students from St. Malachy Catholic School, from left, Laura Anthony (Grade 7), Jordyn Hicks-Cosburn (Grade 8), Jade Durant (Grade 7), Nyssa Garcia (Grade 7), Arielle Guevarra (Grade 7), Avegaile Pillas (Grade 7). Photo courtesy TCDSB

United in truth, reconciliation

By 
  • September 21, 2022

“We want to walk together, to pray together and to work together so that the sufferings of the past can lead to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation,” said Pope Francis during his penitential pilgrimage to Canada this past summer.

The Holy Father was here to listen to and apologize to Indigenous peoples for past wrongs done to them by the Church. He called us to “walk together” to build peace through forgiveness and to extend the love in our hearts. Walking with Christ through sad events of our past transforms despair to love becoming hope in making exclusion into inclusion and reconciliation. We can unite through our efforts to build truth and reconciliation.

Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30 acknowledges the painful reality of history for Indigenous children who did not return home from residential schools. On this day, we memorialize survivors of residential schools and spread the word of hope. The day also supports Indigenous peoples, clans, families and communities’ reconciliation efforts.

Phyllis Webestad was a residential survivor whose shiny orange shirt from her grandmother first brought attention to this day of truth. Knowing the truth is the first step to reconciliation of the past. She shared her experience of loss and identity when her orange shirt was stripped away as a student.

As an adult survivor, she created Orange Shirt Day in Williams Lake, B.C., in May 2013 to acknowledge her past and learn from it. The day brings knowledge of history and develops justice and hope for all survivors. It represents a momentous occasion of remembrance.

In the past, Sept. 30 represented the day Indigenous children were taken away from their homes to residential schools where they infamously lost their language, customs, traditions and Indigenous identity. Forced assimilation was a painful experience.

Today, we all can share the story to build hope, unity and support. We can all contribute to spreading the message as individuals, families and communities. Simply asking others to wear orange on Truth and Reconciliation Day, making posters, praying, planting and blessing a tree, and donating to residential schools and local neighbourhood Native Family Friendship centres promotes healing for First Nation, Metis and Inuit ancestors.

Reaching out to an Indigenous artist can build an understanding of teachings and support the message that Every Child Matters. Walking together in actions and words manifest unity.

St. Malachy Catholic School in the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) will be developing a tree mural inspired by Ojibway artist Raven (Maymarie Boudreault) of the Turtle clan in Ontario. Her art sends a message of peace and hope for residential survivors to grow together in addressing truth and reconciliation. By combining her work with the TCDSB’s message of Walking with Christ with hearts of kindness and love, we can foster a culture of reconciliation and understanding with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

We are all committed to Knowledge, Justice and Hope as we walk with Christ. For Jordyn Hicks-Cosburn, a Grade 8 student at St. Malachy Catholic School (who is among the authors of this column), Sept. 30 is more than her birthday. As a student from Six Nations Kahnawake Reserve in Quebec with ancestral roots in the Deer family, she said, “it makes me feel good that my culture is recognized, and I appreciate all steps to forgiveness as we walk together on the path of reconciliation.”

(The co-authors of this column are St. Malachy students Laura Anthony, Jordyn Hicks-Cosburn, Jade Durant, Nyssa Garcia, Arielle Guevarra and Avegaile Pillas )

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