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Remembering the Children

Banner with names of children who died at Residential School
Mike and Colleen Hoyer helped carry the banner with the names of children who died or did not return from residential schools as a part of the ceremony at Parliament Hill. Photo: Contributed

Mike and Colleen Hoyer were at the ceremony on Parliament Hill on Sept. 30 and helped to carry the 50 metre-long red banner cloth with the names of 2,800 children who died or did not return from the residential schools they were forced to attend. Mike shared some of their reflections with Crosstalk.

University of Ottawa Chancellor Claudette Commanda put out a call for participants in the Indigenous Memory Mural walk on Saturday’s NTR ceremony on Parliament Hill. It was an emotional experience to say the least, seeing First Nations people look for names they knew, often in tears. The atmosphere in the moment was one of great respect and reflection. As we left the stage, we were able to look back at the remaining mural and realize how incredibly long it was! We were honoured to be able to help carry the weight (physical, emotional and spiritual) of the mural.

We are both settlers, though arriving here at very different times in history. Our public school education told us nothing of the Indigenous cultures that had been injured as a result of the forming of the nation of Canada. We learned that from friends and volunteer organizations. By then, we both had a number of learned prejudices to overcome.

My parents emigrated from Europe when I was four after the Second World War. Our education in Quebec did not address any of the First Nations issues we have today, rather the culture promoted racism between English, French, Protestants, Catholics and “Indians.” Subsequently my university days never introduced us to any of this. We learned of that “great” Canadian poet, Duncan Campbell Scott but never heard about his desire to get rid of the Indian problem [as the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in the 1920s].

I am thankful that my children were able roam about St. Thomas Anglican Church in their childhood: accepted, loved and encouraged. Our grandchildren do the same in the Parish of the Valley. As we walked this mural with all the names on it up the stage on Truth and Reconciliation Day in Ottawa, we could only wonder what life would have been like had we been taken from our homes, stripped of our identity, forced to learn a new language or never come home again. We are humbled by the thought and acknowledge that our placement in life is a gift given to us, not something we earn. We hope to be sensitive caretakers of what has been freely given to us.

Parishioners from St. John the Evangelist at Parliament Hill cerermony
The Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer and parishioners from St. John the Evangelist attended the Sept. 30 ceremonies on Parliament Hill, listening to Indigenous speakers and music.

 

 

 

 

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