September 30th marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. To acknowledge the day, Beechwood Cemetery partnered with Project of Heart, the Assembly of 7 Generations, and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society to host an educational day for the public.
Members of A7G, Beechwood Cemetery, Family Caring Society, and Project of Heart worked together to lay 57,000 hand-painted tiles in a memory labyrinth. Each tile was decorated by a Project of Heart student to represent an Indigenous child who was a victim of residential schools.
ELMNT-FM’s Shawn Allen and Abigail Laframboise had the pleasure of speaking to Sylvia Smith from Project of Heart about the event, their mission, and how Project of Heart got its start.
Sylvia was a teacher at Elizabeth Wyn Wood Secondary Alternate Program in Ottawa when she was teaching her Grade 10 history class about the Residential School system. One student in the class, in particular, couldn’t believe what they were learning and wanted to do more. With Sylvia’s guidance, her class started writing letters and attending hearings in Ottawa to advocate for change and justice. She said seeing these students getting involved, being passionate, and truly making a difference was unlike anything she had ever seen before and that the education they received through this process was far better than anything you can teach in a classroom.
The work these students did would go on to contribute to a 2016 ruling from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal acknowledging that the child welfare services being offered to First Nations families were flawed and discriminatory.
Project of Heart was born from this experience and now collaborates with schools from across Canada. To learn more about Project of Heart, click here.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide support for former residential school students. To speak to someone, call 1-866-925-4419.