‘It was actually a really good conversation and it lasted a long time; everyone was getting really emotional about it’
At Streamway Villa, July 1 wasn’t just a time for residents and staff to acknowledge Canada Day; it was also a time to discuss the injustices First Nations people have faced in this country.
Over the past month, 1,148 unmarked graves have been located at abandoned cemeteries near residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The findings have made international news and sparked a flurry of new conversations across Canada about the negative impact the residential school system has had on First Nations people.
Streamway Villa residents and staff wanted to join the national discussion.
After a bonfire and lunch of barbecued steaks and sausages, residents and staff members held a moment of silence in honour of people impacted by the residential school system.
Laurie Kracht, Streamway Villa’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says some residents were not aware of the discovery of the graves in Western Canada.
Some didn’t know about the impact residential schools had on the people of Canada’s First Nations.
But all were eager to learn.
“One of the residents got very emotional about it,” Laurie says. “They didn’t understand the history there. A lot of the residents didn’t know what was happening.”
Orange has been designated as the colour of remembrance of the children who didn’t return home from residential schools. In addition to red and white – the colours of the Canadian flag – orange ribbons were worn at Streamway Villa on Canada Day.
The colour has significance. In 1973, Phyllis Webstad, a then-six-year-old First Nations student from B.C., had an orange shirt taken from her by teachers at the residential school she attended.
Orange Shirt Day has been marked on Sept. 30 every year since 2013 to raise awareness of the injustices First Nations, Inuit and Métis people faced as a result of residential schools.
Laurie says the residents were compassionate during the discussions about the residential schools.
“It was actually a really good conversation and it lasted a long time; everyone was getting really emotional about it,” she says.
Given that residents are eager to learn more about the issues people of Canada’s First Nations face, Laurie says Streamway Villa is planning to connect with a First Nations community to have a representative visit the home at some point to speak with residents.
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