It requires a lot of focus, some skill and a good amount of practice, but a few dozen students at Beurling Academy in Montreal took on the challenge. On Wednesday, they were learning how to make moccasins for a special cause.
“The students have been studying truth and reconciliation for the first half of the year and so they were tasked with finding a project that helps with the truth and reconciliation,” said Sarah Macaskill, a teacher at Beurling Academy.
In the fall, Kahnawà:ke business owner Jessica Hernandez visited the school to talk about Project 215+.
The initiative involves making moccasins, as a way to honour the children who never made it home from residential schools.
After Beurling students heard about the project, they wanted to help.
“It’s important because a lot of people will think because it’s not my community, it doesn’t matter to me,” said Grade 8 student Kishonte Millar James. “I feel like it’s important that everyone learns so that we can help answer their calls and whatever they need.”
Once the moccasins are made, they will be displayed at the school and then donated to be sent to Indigenous children in foster care.
Non-profit organization, Dawson Boys and Girls Club (BGC), who are helping fund the project, say it’s nice to see the students not only talking about this important issue, but contributing to it.
“It’s important to speak about it and to share the information, however, as settlers, we have to take the responsibility to make real action in order for real change to happen and the students are doing that right now,” said Darley Polony BGC youth programs coordinator.
To help spread awareness about the moccasin project beyond Beurling Academy, Macaskill, who is also on the Lester B. Pearson School Board orange shirt committee, will help present the initiative to teachers at other schools.
She says it’s crucial to keep the conversation going.
“What they all noticed in our journey is reconciliation has yet to happen,” she said. ” A lot of them are frustrated at the fact that justice has still not had been had in a lot of circumstances and so it’s really important for them to understand that and to help to make change in the system.”