They’re only in Grade 6 but may now know more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action than many adults.
Students at École Laura Secord School in Winnipeg showcased a student-made book they’ve been working on for a year and a half that has all 94 calls to action translated in simple language kids can understand.
The TRC made the calls to action in 2015 as part of an effort to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
Seventy-five students in Grades 4-6 worked on the book, which has their drawings, poems and translations of the calls to action along with problems that can be solved.
“I know that if every single call to action is filled out our world could be a really better place,” said Grade 6 student Kalvin Keating.
Keating, 11, focused his work on calls to action No. 36 and No. 37. The first calls on governments to provide culturally relevant services to inmates on issues such as substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and overcoming the experience of having been sexually abused.
The second calls on the federal government to provide more supports for Indigenous programming in halfway houses and parole services.
“They could be spending that money on programs to help them get out of jail rather than to keep them in,” Keating said.
Grade 6 student Maddie Armstrong-Wilson said when she started working on the project she didn’t know what reconciliation was. She quickly learned about the dark impact of residential schools.
“The last residential school closed when my teacher graduated high school which actually, in theory, wasn’t that long ago, which was really interesting but also kind of sad, especially since you know they were really bad,” she said.
Support teacher, Chantelle Cotton said making kid-friendly language was important because when the TRC’s report came out, she knows students would never understand the legal terms.
“I knew, as a teacher, it’d be inaccessible to our students.”
She said the learning journey students went on was difficult at times.
“It was emotional because we didn’t just turn it into a grammar assignment where they looked at the words, circled it and researched it. We went into the stories. We met people. We met authors.”
“The kids they don’t have a filter so when there’s a hard question, they ask it.”
Cotton said every student who worked on the project will get a copy of the hardcover book and it will later be available throughout the Winnipeg School Division in libraries.