On Monday, January 23, 2017, students, staff, artists, trustees, MPP and Minister McMahon, and distinguished guests filled the gymnasium at St. Mark Catholic Elementary School for the Truth & Reconciliation Mural Unveiling.
To begin, Stephen Paquette, Co-Chair of the Indigeneous Education Advisory Council in Halton performed a smudging ceremony, while encouraging everyone to pray and acknowledge the land of our ancestors.
The unveiling of the mural was the culmination of two years in the making. During the 2014-2015 school year, Principal of the School, Michelle Morrissey, reached out to Grade 6 students and Sherry Saevil, the Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the Halton Catholic Board, and applied for a Speak Up grant.
The grant allowed the school community to come together, as commissioned artists Monique Bedard (AURA) and Nancy King began the mural in the school library. Students of all ages took an interest and became part of the journey, learning the stories of the First Nations, coming up with ideas for images in the mural, and even helping to paint the mural itself.
As part of the ceremony, student reflections were presented by Chelsea C and Sarah M, Grade 8 students who took part in the artistic mural creation, with the help of fellow students:
"When we were in Grade 6, we met with the people of a First Nations school. The experience was moving and we felt that for sure, something needed to be done to show our recognition of the traditional land and the story of the people who founded it." - Sarah M, Grade 8 student
"In the history of Canada, the European settlers colonized the land and deprived the First Nation Peoples of their culture and ways of life....now we have realized as a country the truth about our mistake and today we are trying to heal the past by mending the future." - Chelsea C, Grade 8 student