Education about reconciliation has taken many forms over the past year in the SCDSB. In honour of National Aboriginal Day on June 21, we would like to highlight another way our students have been learning about and reaching out to survivors of residential schools.
Kathy Hacon-Belcourt teaches Grade 9 English at Banting Memorial High School. Recently, her classes have been reading the book Keeper’n Me by Richard Wagamese. In order to personalize and extend their learning, she shared an article from The Muskokan titled Locked away and forgotten. The article told the stories of three women who spent years living in the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia.
After reading the article, the students decided to write letters to the three women, which were delivered to them. Following are excerpts from some of the letters:
The experiences described in the article really opened our eyes and educated us on how a system that was supposed to keep children safe, did the exact opposite.
You will not have heard of me before but I have certainly heard of you … In life you should have the freedom of who you want to be and that right was taken away from you … Although we can’t take back those moments spent in that prison of a place, we can use those past experiences as a lesson to everyone to prevent it from ever happening again.
I too have experienced racial prejudice even as a kid in the twenty-first century. Your story has inspired me to keep this spark alive, because in a developed country like Canada, people are still not seen as equals. I want to see this change in my lifetime.
The three women – Bev Link, Mable Lester and Betty Bond – received the letters, and were so touched by the outpouring of support from the students that two of them (Bond and Link) travelled to Banting to meet and speak with them. The meeting was an example of how by continuing to educate people about residential schools and share the stories of survivors and victims, we can begin the long process of reconciliation.