In 2015, after eight years of intensive work and interviews with over 6,500 residential school survivors across Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published its findings. In it, there were Calls to Action, including specific actions on Missing Children and Unmarked Graves, as well as a separate report devoted to Missing Children. In Ontario, there were 18 residential schools, 15 of which were in the remote North. Recent news has once again reminded Canadians of the work that still needs to be done.
As the number of graves being recovered across Canada increases, there is an urgency from many who ask, “What can we do?”. While at Mennonite Central Committee we urge settlers to continue learning and listening, there are some concrete actions that our Indigenous Neighbours team has developed to continue supporting partners and Indigenous communities across this treaty territory we call Ontario. Here are three ways in which a simple donation can contribute meaningfully, as we continue to remember, recover, and learn.
Remembering (Ki ski so win): A gathering place
"We need a place to remember” - Indian residential school survivor
At the request of residential school survivors in the Timmins region, the backyard of MCC’s Northern office will be converted into a beautiful, living place where Elders and intergenerational survivors can share space and host ceremony. The design could include things like raised garden beds combined with a prayer circle where medicines can be burned.
The idea of a Remembering Space might spread to additional locations across the province and we are open to requests from Indigenous communities so that we can work together to create space to care for their ancestors and survivors.
The work will begin in August 2021, and will continue into 2022.
Recovering: Bringing the Children Home
Providing funding for Indigenous gatherings and emotional supports
On July 14th, 2021, the first online gathering was hosted where a number of schools in Ontario’s North West were represented by survivors, Chiefs, Councillors, Church leaders as well as forensic specialists. The gathering was a first look at how to begin a piece of very painful work: the recovery of unmarked graves at residential schools including Mennonite-run Poplar Hill Indian Residential School, Cristal Lake and Stirland Lake Indian Residential Schools.
Providing the funding necessary so that gatherings such as this are possible is another way for settler allies to stand with communities and survivors. This is heavy work and is often done with those who have common experiences. Costs may include transportation and accommodation for gatherings in the remote North.
Learning: Aski Learning Tours
Virtually travel the treaty territories in Ontario with the shared knowledge of Indigenous teachers.
Between fall of 2021 and 2022, join MCCO and our talented Indigenous partners for a virtual learning tour across the treaty territories of Ontario. This is an essential opportunity to do your own learning as part of a church group, family, or community group. Be part of a virtual classroom that will gather for two hours each evening for a three day period. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Funding learning tours will be another way of supporting Indigenous Resource Educators through this journey, where learning about Indigenous community should be part of our personal curriculum.