Pontiac High School holds assembly on Truth and Reconciliation
Shawville Sept. 29, 2023
Staff and students gathered in the Pontiac High School (PHS) gymnasium to reflect on the past, present and future during a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event this past Friday.
Organized by PHS teacher Debra Paquette, the event began with opening statements and a reading of a land acknowledgment by Paquette.
Bryan P. Halcro, a constable with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police, and a PHS graduate, then took to the stage to speak with students about his experiences as a community police officer. Halcro, who is Indigenous, encouraged students to think about their role within the reconciliation process and the ways they can work to serve their communities throughout their lives.
Pontiac High School student Megan Ratt then spoke to the assembly about her perspective as a member of a First Nation,, imploring her fellow students to educate themselves on the work that needs to be done and to be active participants in the ongoing reconciliation process.
Following Ratt, PHS principal Dr. Terry Burns spoke to students about his experiences working as an educator in Northern Quebec and shared, as he describes it, the “richness of living with representatives of surrounding First Nations communities”.
Principal likens Cree version of
Canadian anthem to a prayer
“We only have a very few students who identify as belonging to First Nations communities. We wanted the whole school to be engaged in education,” Burns said of the assembly. “But we wanted our First Nations students to know that we’re sensitive to their needs, that we’re ready to follow their leadership as they help us become a better community for them and to give them a chance to celebrate their culture and to shine before their classmates.”
The event concluded with the playing of the Canadian national anthem sung in the Cree language, a version Dr. Burns likened to a spiritual reflection on the importance of land in Indigenous culture.
“The version had a unique perspective on Canada and was very focused on the land itself,” he said.
“It seemed to me it was almost written to be a prayer.”
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