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Memorial to residential schools created at St. Bernard Church in Fournier

To The Editor,

Weeks ago, all Canadians woke up to the horror from within: the no-more-to-be-blanked-out/overlooked/white-washed or never-again-to-be-skipped-over pages of their own history books. Parishioners at St. Bernard Church in Fournier, like most of their fellow countrymen and women, knew in their hearts that, mute silence not being an option, something needed be said, needed be shown, needed to be done in solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Not wanting to wait any longer for politicians or religious leaders who think they still need more time to think about and analyze all of the issues related to the state and church’s role in residential schools, a few parishioners agreed to put up a simple memorial in front of the altar. They also knew that news of many more deaths of children buried in unmarked graves would surface in regularly for the coming years, reminding all Canadians of this unforgiveable chapter of our historical relations with the many First Nations.

So, as many other ordinary good-hearted folks would do, it was felt that, at our own level too, some form of acknowledgement of the wrong done by the offenders and of the harm inflicted on the offended had to be voiced. Most people probably agree that the details of this tragedy should remain in the hands of expert historians – the revealing of which will take decades. A reflection which brings to mind the question: what to do in the mean time. Wait and not jump to conclusions? Or show support, empathy, solidarity, compassion …? Turn to … offer an open hand of … For us at St. Bernard, it clearly had to be all of the former and more.

The first step then was to have the truth stare us right in the face and a memorial was designed as a marker on a path in the direction of healing, forgiveness and, hopefully, reconciliation. Very simply then, it displays four items. First, a candle is lit every Sunday during mass. Then, a dreamcatcher and an authentic tikinagan or baby-carrier (see https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/why-i-carried-my-baby-in-a-tikinagan/) are prominently placed well in view. Finally, an emotionally-moving painting by local artist and parishioner Sylvia Levac was added. Inspired directly from a magnificent original painting by Cree-Ojibway artist Simone McLeod, the work titled ‘Growth from Love’, created in 2016, features a universal faceless Mother Spirit with long leaf-shaped braids of hair and with lovingly embracing arms to protect her blue sky and green earth children. Understandably, it has many more possible interpretations. See https://bearclawgallery.com/artists/simone-mcleod/.

Turning to this memorial, we join in prayer in the face of all this suffering as we reaffirm that in truth, we remain our brothers’ keepers.

Michel-André Lavergne

Reid Masson

Reid Masson is a graduate of Algonquin College's Journalism Program. He has over 20 years of experience as a staff writer and editor for various newspapers across Canada, including The Ottawa Citizen and Brockville Recorder and Times.

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