FORMOSA – The Grade 8 students at Immaculate Conception School in Formosa joined a national campaign to eradicate racism and bring Indigenous children affected by the child welfare system home to their communities.
The Moccasin Project (So They Can Go Home) is not a new concept to the school's Grade 8 teacher, Mary Steffan. She said she had a previous class participate in the project, which was the inspiration for this year's involvement.
Steffan said the students developed knowledge of the issues Indigenous youth and children face and that “they do their best to raise awareness,” since participating in the project.
The Community Liaison Committee (CLC) and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) provided funding for the project, formally presenting a cheque for $1,800 to the school on Feb. 25 in a special ceremony.
In a letter to the CLC, Steffen explained that classes have been learning about Canada’s Indigenous community and the inequalities they face. In particular, students have learned that a disproportionate percent of children in foster care are Indigenous; 90 per cent in the case of Manitoba’s foster care system.
"Through the...project, students make moccasins and send them back to the foundation along with letters for Indigenous infants in foster care,” a media release from the CLC said.
“According to their website, this program aims to educate and raise awareness on child apprehension that is impacting Indigenous children in Canada and hopes to eradicate racism and reunite children with their communities and families.”
The kits were distributed amongst several classes at Immaculate Conception as a result of the funding approved by CLC in December 2020.
Students in Steffen’s class began making the moccasins at home during the period of virtual learning and completed them upon the return to school. The moccasins will be sent back when all the classes at Immaculate Conception complete them.
“It’s so amazing to see kids helping kids, especially in times such as these, and the CLC and NWMO helped make that happen,” Steffan said.
“The committee was happy to provide support to make this unique program taking place at Immaculate Conception School a possibility. It is positive to see local students receive education on Indigenous issues, and support youth across the country in the process,” said Les Nichols, CLC member.
Da-giiwewaat (so they can go home) is a national campaign to raise awareness about child apprehension impacting Indigenous children in Canada.
Their website said, “We are calling on everyone to get involved and help us make 165,000 (as reported by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations Child Welfare - Jan. 1, 2016) moccasins for Indigenous children affected by the child welfare system of Canada!”
“The NWMO has committed to contribute to reconciliation and we are delighted to provide support to a local school to contribute to the ongoing learning of our youth,” said Cherie Leslie, NWMO senior engagement advisor.
The donation came from the Early Investments in Education and Skills (EIES) fund.
This NWMO funding program exists for capacity building purposes in communities that have ongoing participation in the Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project. It provides investments in education as well as training for youth and the community, and is made available annually to any of the elementary schools in the Municipality of South Bruce.
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times