Illustrated book teaches children about residential school tragedy
Elementary school students at Laura Secord School in Winnipeg have spent about a year creating a book titled “Answering the Calls: A Child's View of the 94 Calls to Action,” which helps teach the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to other children.
By rewriting the recommendations and incorporating drawings, the children have made it easier for others of the same age to understand the horrors endured by Indigenous children in the residential school system.
The students rewrote each of the recommendations so younger students could understand them and then wrote about why each recommendation was important.
“A bunch of the words were new to us including reconciliation, but learning about this meant we knew what they had been through,” Lily, one of the students involved in the book, told CTV News.
While other projects, like Orange Shirt Day and the late Gord Downie’s “Secret Path,” aimed to raise awareness of residential schools, this book is believed to be the first such project made by and for children.
The residential school program involved Indigenous children being taken from their homes and brought to government-funded religious schools that ultimately left survivors with years of trauma. It’s estimated that 6,000 of the children died.
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children spent time in a residential school during the 150 years of the program.
In 2015, following six years of research and interviews with more than 6,700 former residential school students, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report calling the residential school program “cultural genocide.”
“Every child deserves to be safe and that’s what survivors wanted,” said Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. “That’s what you see in their hearts and eyes. That’s what so important about all of this work.”
The report called for federal and provincial governments to implement 94 recommendations aimed at reconciliation, including:
- A call for child welfare groups to keep Indigenous families together whenever possible;
- For the federal government to work with Indigenous groups to the eliminate the gaps in education and employment among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians;
- And establish a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to fully implement the recommendations by 2021.
The book is available in all Winnipeg School Division libraries and is being sold across Canada, with 10,000 copies already in print. Digital copies will also be made available through the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
“When I heard it was 10,000 and when I told the kids at school that it was 10,000, it’s almost a number too big to believe,” said teacher Jackie Cleave.
Cleave added the school is considering similar projects for the future.
“Certainly, the title says it all, we’re answering the calls,” she said. “We’re not done, this is the start.”