THREE École Laura Secord classrooms came together in the span of two years to reach one common goal: create an accessible version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) calls to action report.
Now, the students’ work has been consolidated into a book, Answering the Calls: a Child’s View of the 94 Calls to Action.
Released in 2015 at the end of the TRC’s seven-year mandate, the 94 "calls to action" target provincial, federal, territorial and Indigenous leaders to collaborate on policy changes in an effort to repair the harm caused by residential schools in order to reach reconciliation.
Jackie Cleave — who teaches grades 4-6 at the Wolseley-area school — spearheaded the project, alongside her colleagues Jilll Joanette, Stefanie Jones and Chantelle Cotton.
Students were slowly introduced to the issues of colonization by visiting the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and eventually participated in blanket exercises designed to explore the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.
Cleave said although the exercises left some students feeling angry or confused with history, she encouraged them to channel their feelings into action.
"We should be ashamed of this chapter of our past. We should feel guilty for those of us who have reaped the benefits of colonization. We should be angry that this was part of where we’ve been and still impacts us today, but what can we do with those emotions?" she said Monday.
"So, we don’t just sit there in that negative energy, we get to move forward and do something, and this is what that next step was."
The students used their energy to transform each "call to action" into accessible, kid-friendly language.
Maddie Wilson was 10 when she started participating in the project, and as a Grade 5 student, she said she didn’t understand what truth and reconciliation was.
"It made me feel sad that I didn’t know about it sooner and that’s why I think the book is really good, so that kids from an early age can learn about it sooner," Maddie said.
For two years, Maddie focused on call No. 73, which asks the federal government to maintain a registry of gravesites of deceased children who attended residential schools.
Maddie’s mother, Cindy Armstrong, said while there have been some challenging conversations at home, they have all been worthwhile. "I think the best thing we can do is show them history, teach them history, and hope it doesn’t repeat itself," Armstrong said.
Approximately 75 students participated in the production of the book, which was presented Monday to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.