Saskatchewan school preps students for upcoming TRC event in Saskatoon
By Madeleine Marchildon
On May 17 at Riverside School in Prince Albert, some 260 Grade 7 students from Saskatchewan Rivers School Division gathered for an Education Day. These students will be attending the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Summit June 22 in Saskatoon. In preparation for this event, these students were given information on the whole TRC process and its findings.
Mona Markwart, principal of Riverside School, stated that students need to know their history about treaties -- what they say and what they don't say. The Minister of Education has set up a study of awareness about treaties and their impact. She added, "These students will be in a better position to take responsibility of their lives if they know their history. This will enable government and agencies to address the changes needed."
"Students need a greater understanding of their background and openness to both sides of the issue in order to heal and to move on," said Harry Lafond of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.
"The outcome will slowly involve everyone," he said. "There is no room for bystanders. We need to move to serious action and promote language, culture and spirituality in our schools. These must be seen as gifts and taught with more emphasis."
He said that we need to change how we see and do things in schools. "Home life needs to be addressed. Youth need to connect with their families. This is true for all cultures," he said. Using his personal experience as family, Lafond explained how he and his wife Germaine need to keep family ties alive with their growing children as they leave home.
"A day like this one gives me hope," he said.
Students, divided into small groups of about 60, rotated between diverse sessions throughout the day. One of the sessions was sharing of student testimonies and how are they are affected by treaties and their parents' residential school experiences.
Rev. Sandy Scott, pastor of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, and Lynda Greyeyes, aboriginal consultant, helped organize the day. Scott indicated that students need to find their identity and be proud of it in order to heal by rebuilding relationships and trust.
"One way is to involve youth in grasping their history and bringing them to be responsible and to learn lifelong skills," he said.
An outreach worker from St. Paul's Presbyterian ministry for aboriginal students gave her own story of being a victim removed from her home at the age of eight and forced to be in a residential school for three years. She said that the purpose was to assimilate her people.
"Many can't verbalize their pain, but hopefully will write their stories," she said. "We have lost our identity and our culture. No good has come from this. There is a lot of discrimination even among our own people. Together, we must build trust among all nations."
As a part of the local Ministerial Association, the Pastoral Centre in Prince Albert helped raise $9,000 during lenten lunches to contribute expenses for the Education Day and the June 22 TRC Summit in Saskatoon.
Bishop Albert Thevenot, M. Afr., who meets on a regular basis with aboriginal faithful in the diocese, hopes the TRC will achieve its goals. "We need to work on healing past wounds and dealing with our prejudices," Thevenot said, "so that we can look forward. We must walk together in hope and in trust to the future that is opening before us."