Reconciliation quilt project at Balfour Collegiate aims to patch things up

Students at Balfour Collegiate worked together in an attempt to bring the country one step closer to reconciliation on Wednesday.

Students created quilt patches of 94 calls to action as part of ribbon project

Four hundred students and 20 teachers worked with educator and designer Tracey George Heese on the project. (Joelle Seal/CBC)

There are 94 calls to action within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's final report and students at Balfour Collegiate chose one they each identified with for a project unveiled on Wednesday.

Students translated their call to action into a patch, which were stitched together to create a quilt to signify a commitment to reconciliation between Canada and the Indigenous population. 

At the ceremony students read out calls to action and their responses.

"We call upon the federal government to acknowledge Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights," students said in unison.

"This matters to me because I've had the freedom to find and establish my own identity my entire life," responded one student.

"Never once has my family name, religion, culture or language been threatened or destroyed like the First Nations children in residential schools."

The Ribbon Project was undertaken by about 400 students and 20 teachers, who worked with Tracey George Heese, an educator and designer from the Ochapowace First Nation.

Student Micah Stonechild chose call to action No. 76, which calls for documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries. 

"When the students passed away, in the school, the teachers or the priest — they never said anything, they just let it be," Stonechild said. 

"They just let it be. They didn't inform the families and I felt very heartbroken by that."

Stonechild mentioned the old cemetery off Pinkie Road where it is believed dozens of unknown Indigenous students are buried.

"Sadly, there's not many cemetery markings there to show that the children died and there's nothing to have their names on there."

The TRC's final report, which detailed the abuse endured by Indigenous children in residential schools, was released in December 2015.

The 94 calls to action are not recommendations, but challenges to the country to better itself through changing policies and programs aimed at repairing the damage done to Indigenous people, culture and language in residential schools. 

The quilt, described as a collective promise, will be displayed at the front of Balfour Collegiate along with the federal government's apology to residential school survivors.

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition