Native Studies teacher Stacy Villeneuve from St. Pius X H.S. in Ottawa and her students commemorated the lives of the students of Desmarais Indian Residential School as well as Joussard IRS both run by the Catholic Church in Alberta. After students decorated the tiles, Christopher Herodier Snowboy, a James Bay Cree, was invited to speak to the class
and recounted some of his IRS experiences.
Stacy’s students were energized by their experience with the process; for the social justice component of the project, they witnessed the Federal Court hearings as the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) appealled the Human Rights Tribunal decision to not allow the network to broadcast the Tribunal Hearings. St. Pius X students arrived at the Federal Court on March 7th dawning their “I Am a Witness” t-shirts. They were an impressive sight as they filled the Federal Court, demonstrating an overwhelming support for First Nations children and their families in their fight for fair and equitable access to government services.
St. Pius X students were rewarded for their support by a visit to their school by Cindy Blackstock from the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. She brought with her Wesley Prankhard, age thirteen, who spoke of his activism in raising money for a playground for the children of Attawapiskat. Each student was also given a certificate, signed by Cindy and Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay.
But students didn’t stop there. They collected over 100 pairs of shoes, each representing an Aboriginal woman who is missing or murdered, for display on the steps of Parliament Hill in The Shoe Project,an initiative lead by the McGill University Human Rights Group. St. Pius X students attended this demonstration in support of the over 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, even though it was their March break! They came to decry the Federal funding cut to Sisters in Spirit, an initiative by the Native Women’s Association of Canada to address the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women in Canada.
A huge meegwetch to the students of St. Pius X for their incredible support for First Nations children in Canada, as well as their teacher, Stacy. You are models for all of us in your gestures of reconciliation. Remembering the Indigenous children in the IRS means remembering children in child welfare system today.