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Kelvin students and staff took part in a variety of activities in honour of Canada's Residential School survivors on September 29th, with dozens wearing orange t-shirts, hundreds listening to author Wab Kinew, and a contingent of students visiting the former Assiniboia Indian Residential school on the edge of River Heights. This is the third year Kelvin has taken part in Orange Shirt Day, launched by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a residential school survivor who shared her story of how her new orange shirt was taken away from her on her first day at St. Joseph Mission Residential School, leaving her with feelings of worthlessness and insignificance. This year, the Manitoba provincial government has made the day one of official recognition of the consequences of policies which saw Indigenous children taken from their homes to residential schools at the end of September; and a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call for a national day of remembrance for residential school survivors.
At Kelvin, Fort Rouge MLA Wab Kinew spoke to students of all grades about the impact his father's years at St. Mary's residential school in Kenora, Ontario had on his family, and about the importance of rising above our individual 'normal' activities to become aware of systemic injustices that persist. Later that morning, about 30 students from grades 9 through 12 took a 30 minute journey on foot to the former Assiniboia Residential School, to share testimonials found in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as to listen to excerpts from the memoir of Ted Fontaine, a graduate of the Assiniboia School. While there, they met the Director (a Kelvin grad) of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, the organisation that, appropriately, now occupies the building. Throughout the day, students enrolled in Social Studies, Geography and History courses in the English Academic, Immersion française and International Baccalaureate programs learned more about the legacy of one of the darker chapters in Canada's past.
The commemoration at Kelvin provided a way for students and staff to learn, discuss and reflect on the history and legacy of residential schools and the resilience of residential school survivors, all of which are a vital component of the reconciliation process. Special thanks to Mr. Walker & Mr. Zonneveld and their students for the distribution of orange t-shirts and to Mr. C. Young for inviting Mr. Kinew.