Dear fellow educators,
It is with sadness that we learn about the 215 children found at the site of the Kamloops Residential School. Our thoughts and hearts are with the families, community members, and survivors. We will never know the pain they feel, but we stand with them.
Yesterday, Charlene Bearhead, Director of Reconciliation at Canadian Geographic, and Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, called on educators across Canada to plant heart gardens at their schools to memorialise the 215 children and to publicly call Canada to action. Click here to read their letter.
We are writing to ask if you, your families, your students, the toddlers and preschoolers in your care, and your school communities would also consider creating hearts for a heart garden on the grounds of the Canadian Geographic building at 50 Sussex which is directly across from the grounds of Rideau Hall where we collectively planted a heart garden on June 3, 2015, at the closing ceremonies of the TRC, to memorialize the children who died in residential schools. Although we can not access the Rideau Hall grounds currently the connection to this place just across the street at Canadian Geographic gives us a connection so we can fill this adjoining space with the paper hearts that are so meaningful to Survivors, Elders, and family members and that create such a public display of honouring.
To support you in this work, you can find the information about the Heart Gardens and what they are on pages 3-5 of this BCTF resource. Additionally, on pages 9 and 10 you will find examples including patterns and templates for the hearts and messages.
We are hoping to fill this space this week but will continue to grow the garden with additional heats into the next. Please take your hearts to the Royal Canadian Geographic Society at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa between 9am-5pm. You will see the receptionist through the glass and can buzz her to open the door. For Covid safety, please leave the hearts inside the door. When the garden is taken down, the hearts will be gifted to Algoma University to catalogue and display in their new Centre for Reconciliation. Some will also be displayed at Canadian Geographic as a constant reminder of the work ahead of us.
For those learning online, an initiative has been created so that virtual students can participate. This virtual heart garden will be hosted by the Project of Heart National Website. Please click on this link to access the virtual heart garden. A short video tutorial on using the virtual garden can be accessed below or click here. Please note that families who are learning on line but are also wanting to contribute to the heart garden at 50 Sussex are asked to please also drop your hearts off at the front door as outlined above to be added to the heart garden there.
Thank you for your commitments. We respect and honour you and the work that each of you do, each day.
Please share widely on your email, social media, and other networks.
Sylvia Smith, Founder, Project of Heart (Recipient of the 2011 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching for Project of Heart)
Lisa Howell, Teacher, WQSB and Part-time Professor, UOttawa (Recipient of the 2018 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching for Decolonizing Pedagogy)