GES­TURE OF REC­ON­CIL­I­A­TION

Church gifts for Indige­nous kids

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - SHARON HILL shill@post­media.com twit­ter.com/win­starhill

Gift-filled shoe­boxes are be­ing col­lected in Wind­sor for stu­dents more than 1,100 kilo­me­tres north in Kashechewan and At­tawapiskat near James Bay.

They aren’t Christmas gifts. They are meant as ges­tures of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion af­ter the harm caused to gen­er­a­tions of Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents in Canada’s res­i­den­tial schools.

The chil­dren open­ing the gifts won’t know they are from a church at the bot­tom of Canada or that they were given in the spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. That’s more for mem­bers of All Saints’ Church in down­town Wind­sor to know as they col­lect gifts for the first time in the Wind­sor area for the group I Love First Peo­ples.

“We’re at­tempt­ing to con­front our­selves with our own com­plic­ity,” Rev. Robert Clif­ford said Tues­day.

More than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit chil­dren were re­moved from their fam­i­lies begin­ning in the 1870s and sent to church-run res­i­den­tial schools across the coun­try that were es­tab­lished by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. The last school closed in 1996. The Angli­can Church of Canada ran some of the schools and is­sued an apol­ogy in 1993.

Many chil­dren were not al­lowed to speak their own lan­guage and some chil­dren didn’t see their par­ents for years. The liv­ing con­di­tions were poor, the death rates were high and many stu­dents suf­fered phys­i­cal or sex­ual abuse.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is­sued an of­fi­cial apol­ogy in 2008. The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s fi­nal re­port into the his­tory of Canada’s res­i­den­tial school sys­tem was re­leased in 2015 with 94 rec­om­men­da­tions to at­tempt to re­pair the harm and foster rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Clif­ford said the Angli­can Church is try­ing to be bet­ter part­ners with Indige­nous peo­ple and has teamed up with the char­ity I Love First Peo­ples. It raises aware­ness about rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and aims to em­power Indige­nous chil­dren and youth to suc­ceed through ed­u­ca­tion.

It is dif­fer­ent than the gift boxes that churches col­lect for chil­dren around the world. I Love First Peo­ples shoe­boxes are dis­trib­uted year round and help the char­ity team up with schools and learn how to bet­ter sup­port ed­u­ca­tion in each com­mu­nity such as schol­ar­ships, anti-bul­ly­ing pro­grams, pub­lic speak­ing train­ing and mi­cro busi­ness ed­u­ca­tion.

Clif­ford said whether it’s for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion or to sim­ply send a gift to a re­mote Cana­dian com­mu­nity, the pub­lic is in­vited to drop off shoe­boxes with $5 to help with ship­ping be­fore Dec. 15.

“A sketch pad or a pal­ette of paints or a base­ball cap or a har­mon­ica or what­ever is not li­able to make it onto the air­plane if the choice is be­tween that and flour and sugar,” Clif­ford said of the com­mu­ni­ties that de­pend on planes for sup­plies.

The church needs qual­ity gifts for chil­dren ages three to 16. Sug­ges­tions in­clude craft sup­plies, a ball cap, sun­glasses, jew­elry, hair ac­ces­sories, puz­zles, a com­pass, glow-in-the-dark de­cals or mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, such as a tam­bourine, flute or small hand drum. Peo­ple are en­cour­aged to in­clude a cheer­ful note.

Avoid Christmas-themed or re­li­gious items, dol­lar store toys and candy. The church at 330 City Hall Square West will ac­cept the shoe­boxes Mon­day to Fri­day from 9 a.m. to noon or on Dec. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. The church has de­tails on the il­f­p­wind­sores­sex Face­book page.

DAN JANISSE

Rev. Robert Clif­ford of All Saints’ Angli­can Church in down­town Wind­sor, dis­plays gift-filled shoe­boxes that the parish is col­lect­ing for the I Love First Peo­ples cam­paign. The gift will be sent to Indige­nous chil­dren more than 1,100 kilo­me­tres north in Kashechewan and At­tawapiskat.

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