Human Rights Symposium

On November 19th, Crestwood Preparatory College hosted “Towards Reconciliation 2”, our second human rights symposium devoted to indigenous issues. Over 400 students attended, with guests coming to Crestwood from many GTA independent schools.

The day began with Ojibwe Anishinaabe kokum Kim Wheatley, who offered a prayer for a successful day of learning for all participants. Following Ms. Wheatley’s invocation, all students had the opportunity to hear from award-winning author Lee Maracle, who urged students to challenge traditional narratives of Canadian history and take political action as future voters to fight for reconciliation. After Ms. Maracle’s opening keynote address, students attended small group breakout sessions of their choice, covering a variety of important topics related to Truth and Reconciliation. Residential school survivor Susan Hunter shared with students her harrowing experience at St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario. Speakers from community organizations such as Native Child and Family Services, the Native Women’s Resource Centre, and the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council described the important work that is being done by their organizations. Legal scholars, artists, and filmmakers shared their work with students, providing a multi-dimensional approach to the topics of truth and reconciliation.

After lunch, students returned to the Crestwood gym for an energetic and powerful performance by Toronto-based musician Shawnee. Shawnee’s music draws from her Mohawk heritage, and her experience as a 2 Spirited woman. Students were singing along, and raising their voices for progress. Afternoon breakout sessions offered attendees diverse learning opportunities on everything from aboriginal finance and business issues, to traditional dancing and beadwork.

The day closed with the inspiring sight of 400-plus high school students performing a smoke dance, and calling out to the Four Directions. The final message of the day was a call to action for students to help build a better Canada, one where reconciliation is not a goal, but a reality. The lessons taught on the 19th will give them the tools they need to accomplish this task.

Please click here to see photos of the event!