GESTURE OF RECONCILIATION
Church gifts for Indigenous kids
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.
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.