This past semester students from Ottawa’s Nepean High School once again participated in Project of Heart, marking the second time in two years their school has partnered with POH. Four Grade 9 Geography classes designed a total of 300 tiles in commemoration of the young lives lost at the Ridgemont Home for Children in Whitehorse and Pine Creek Indian Residential School in Manitoba.
Here’s what teacher Leigh Williamson had to say about the experience:
Prior to the tile designing, the students researched the history of the Indian Residential Schools. They were shocked by the information that shook their confidence in all that they’d leaned about Canada being anything but a peaceful and accepting country. The reality of this chapter in our history was one that left many students grappling with their notions of fairness and they were inspired to take action. They took their civic responsibilities seriously and did so by addressing the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women.
Posting pictures of missing Aboriginal women, signing petitions in support of Amnesty International’s “Stolen Sisters” initiative, and writing letters to MPs in Parliament — all ways the young learners engaged in action as gestures of reconciliation. Here is an example of a letter sent by one of Leigh’s students:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister, Minister John Duncan, Minister Robert Nicholson and Minister Vic Toews,
This is an e-mail regarding Gladys Tolley.
If you have not heard of her she was an Alqonquin woman who was hit on highway 105 by a Police Patrol car. None of the required tests and analysis’s took place regarding her death. Her body was simply sent to a funeral home.
This is unacceptable.
The investigation of the scene was conducted by the brother of the Officer responsible for hitting her. And to make it even more biased, another brother was present during the investigation. Now unless these men were utterly andtotally loyal to their job, then I would assume that maybe they actually took this seriously. However, they are only human beings so it would be obvious that they stuck to the guilty officer’s side, (their brother’s side). Gladys left behind a daughter, Bridget Tolley.
For years she has been trying to make sense of what happened to her mother. She and her family have asked to see the results of the investigation. Yet their wish has been declined. Briget has been refused again and again for this information, and she is holding the officers accountable for her mother’s death. Last year with the support of eight organizations:
Native Woman’s Associtation of Canada, Quebec Native Woman, the Assembly of First Nations, Assembly of First Nations Quebec and Labrador, Amnesty International, Amnesty Montreal, Algonquin Nation and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, they asked for a private investigation into the death of Gladys Tolley. They were refused.
All they are asking is that the Federal Government gives them support against the Government of Quebec’s decision regarding this tragedy. And all that I am asking is that you honesty and truly take a look at this. Imagine if this was your mother wouldn’t you do the same?
For the final segment of the Project, IRS survivor Chris Snowboy came to the Grade 9 classrooms to share memories of his own residential school experience through words and song.