Today is our country’s first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Today is a day of remembrance, recognition and healing– a day to look deeply at the past, think about the present, and look forward to a country that will come together in reconciliation. To this end, Elmwood’s Reconciliation Club and ARA planned opportunities to help our students recognize the harm that residential schools did to so many children. In classrooms throughout the school, teachers have been encouraging discussion about what reconciliation means. 

Many students and staff chose to wear an orange t-shirt today, a symbol stemming from the experience of Residential School survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who was forced to give up her brand-new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, when she first entered St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, B.C. 

In the Junior School, the Grade 5s shared their learning about residential schools in Canada and the significance of Orange Shirt Day in their morning assembly. Students from grades 1-5 listened to a heartfelt and emotional reflection from guest speaker Carleen Greyeyes-Rivet about her family’s experience with residential schools. 

Junior School students then participated in a gallery walk of various projects the Grade 5s have been working on over the last few weeks. They created slideshows, posters to raise awareness, and a timeline of events experienced within residential schools across the country. All students were then invited to design their own orange shirts and tie an orange ribbon around the “Every Child Matters” flag as a way to recognize residential school survivors and their families. 

In the Middle and Senior School, students were also invited to hang ribbons, this time in the body of two large ribbon hearts on the front gate. Middle school students decorated orange t-shirts recognizing that every child matters. These are hanging on the school’s windows as a testament to the neighbourhood that we are journeying on our path to reconciliation. Senior school students wrote letters to Dr. Peter Bryce after listening to the endeavours of Cindy Blackstock to rehabilitate Dr. Bryce’s work at exposing the national crime of residential schools all the way back in 1904! A postal box has been placed at Dr. Bryce’s gravesite in Beechwood Cemetery, and the letters will be sent to this address. 

We hope this week’s discussions and activities will help students be allies in this quest for reconciliation. Blackstock says that “Courage is not a value. It’s an activator of values”. These are words we wish to stand by. 
If you wish to continue this discussion with your children, is an excellent resource. All of their live events during this week are available online. 

More photos of the day at Elmwood can be found here