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Ottawa – June 4, 2015 – UFCW Canada proudly sponsored and participated in the Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams initiative in Ottawa on Wednesday. The event — created in partnership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, KAIROS, and Project of Heart — involved planting decorated hearts with messages of hope and healing in honour of survivors of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School System.
More than 500 children gathered at the Ottawa event held on the grounds at Rideau Hall. The children held decorated paper hearts, attached to wooden garden stakes, with messages of reconciliation. They came from First Nations reserves, near and afar, to pay and homage and acknowledge the courage of Residential Schools survivors present at the event. Representatives from government and social justice organizations were also on hand as the children planted the hearts they brought – creating a symbolic Heart Garden at Rideau Hall.
Along with family members, government and social justice representatives were also in attendance and were invited to join in song, as the children led a procession away from Rideau Hall to symbolize that children will lead us towards a future of reconciliation.
“The commitment toward reconciliation was deeply shared among the participants,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema who participated in the Ottawa event. “It is undeniable that generations of damage culminated from the effects of Indian Residential Schools. The delivery of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the presence of the thousands of individuals who have travelled to attend this important event are important reminders that reconciliation belongs to all Canadians and that the effects of prejudice will require perseverance, commitment and hope for the healing to continue.”
Entrenched in Canadian history, and affirmed by Prime Minister Harper on June 11, 2008, the effects of the Indian Residential Schools, which were in existence from the 1870s to 1996, led to seven generations of damage for Indigenous Peoples of Canada. More than 150,000 children were taken from their homes and stripped of their culture and heritage through a government-endorsed system the TRC has described as cultural genocide.
The Heart Garden initiative, through the creation of Heart Gardens in Ottawa and across Canada, aims to call attention and raise awareness of this tragedy in Canadian history, and to honour the estimated 80,000 individuals who are the present survivors of the Indian Residential School system.