The first hour of school Monday, the first day of Truth and Reconciliation Week, was a period of discovery for grades five and six at St. Edmund School in Beaconsfield.
They had a musical performance to kick off week-long events at the school to raise awareness about Canada’s residential school system as well as other issues affecting Indigenous communities.
The students had a little help with their singing from Inuit throat singer Nina Segalowitz, a Sixties Scoop survivor.
Segalowitz believes the exchange wasn’t just good for the kids.
“That’s why I wanted to be around them too,” she laughed following the performance in the school’s playground. “They heal me. A lot.”
She spoke to the children about her culture and performed two songs, one with the students.
“A song from the north called Tiny Hands,” explained music specialist Jennifer Hayden and a member of Lester B. Pearson School Board Truth And reconciliation sub-committee. “It has throat singing as well, so Nina joined us for the throat singing.”
Segalowitz then sang a Dene “healing song” for them.
For 11 year-old Makayla Ramoutar, a Mohawk student, the songs honoured those who went to residential school and stirred bitter memories of her own grandmother — a survivor.
“They made her put her hands out on the desk like this,” she said fighting back tears as she recounted a story her mother told her, “and whipped her three times because her writing went out of the line just a little bit.”
She’s found the event at her school helpful and said it shows that people care.
Other schools like Lakeside Academy in Lachine also have events planned for this week.
Leadership and media teacher Patricia Staniforth says it’s important for her students to pay respect to children who did not survive residential school.
“It really makes them realize that it’s important to study our history in order to avoid repeating it in the future,” she told Global News.
“Who we are isn’t not taught in schools yet,” she pointed out, “and every little bit that a child learns, they carry with them through their whole life.”
She added that the week is an opportunity for non-Indigenous people to learn.
Ramoutar wants everyone to remember the kids who were lost saying they should’ve been cared for.
“They don’t need to treat kids that way,” she stated pointing to the mistreatment residential school kids faced.
“They should have equal rights to live their ways.”
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.