Thousands of Students Participate in Reconciliation Week

On Thursday September 19th, over 5000 students from across the province convened at the PNE for a day of witnessing and education. 

Fostering Reconciliation through Education Day, coordinated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Education Day Advisory Committee, created an opportunity for students to learn about the history and long-term effects of the Residential School System in Canada. Students participated in conversations and healing workshops that focused on arts, music, story-telling, film, and dance.

At the opening ceremony, the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair welcomed students and asked the large group to do three things over the course of the day.

"Repeat after me," he said. "I will watch. I will listen. I will be respectful."

Sinclair set the tone for a day of witnessing and respect, adding: "I adopt you all. You are all my nieces and nephews".

Students from Gladstone Secondary School's "English 12- First Peoples" class said that the day had been full of great moments. 

"We didn't know that suicide rates were so high among native youth," said one student. " It was amazing to see people sharing so freely at the event and I was impressed by the strength of the survivors."

Grade 12 Magee Secondary student, Adi Pick participated as part of the Youth Panel at the TRC Education Day.  She spoke about the impact of residential schools on Non Aboriginal students. Pick is a Jewish student who moved to Canada 12 years ago from Israel. She spoke about how she was able to resonate with the stories offered at the event due to the experiences her family had faced in the past.

Pick explained how education has transformed and supported her understanding of both Aboriginal and non--Aboriginal people alike.

"It was a historic day for the students and educators of metro Vancouver. Thousands of students, teachers and parents, coming together in respect and commitment to the spirit of reconciliation, many confronted for the first time with the hidden truth of shameful events that happened within the very recent past," said Don Fiddler, VSB District Principal - Aboriginal Education and Education Day Advisory Committee member. "I saw a rain-bowed student body, multi-hued and disparate, moved by the stories, and imbued by the message that we must confront the past in order to build a harmonious and respectful future and that never again should we let ideology or political expediency tear apart families or heap abuse upon the most vulnerable."

The TRC of Canada is tasked with learning and recording the truth of what happened in Indian Residential Schools, by witnessing the testimony of residential schools survivors, staff, and others who have been impacted either directly or by the legacy of residential schools.

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