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'22 Days' Reconciliation Project Sees Anglican Church Promote Residential School Survivors' Stories

06/03/2015 03:00 EDT | Updated 06/03/2015 03:59 EDT

Twenty-two days. Twenty-two stories. Countless lives forever marked by a tragic legacy.

The Anglican Church of Canada is marking the 22 days between the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final national gathering (May 31) and National Aboriginal Day (June 22) with the "22 Days" project, which will see it promote the stories of 22 people who were affected by the residential school policy.

As many as 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children are estimated to have attended residential schools; the TRC has said the number of children who died in the schools might never be known for certain. The TRC has documented 2,434 student deaths between 1867 and 1940.

In explaining the project, the Anglican church said it played a role in running 36 residential schools for Indigenous students before it withdrew in 1969.

"Though individual participants may have had nobler intentions, the underlying colonial aim was the destruction of Indigenous cultures and the assimilation of children into Euro-Canadian Society," the project's website reads. "In pursuit of this goal, we tore apart families and communities, and drove students and their parents, siblings and children into dysfunction and addiction. Many students were emotionally, sexually and physically abused."

As part of "22 Days," the Anglican Church will post the stories of survivors and others affected by residential schools on the project's website, with a prayer for the person whose experience is being told.

The first person to have her story told was Gladys Cook, who was interviewed by Anglican Video in 1992. Her account is posted above this story.

But that's not the only way the church is paying respect to Indigenous people.

Churches across the country, like St. John's Anglican Church in Peterborough, Ont., have committed to ringing their bell for 10 minutes every day until June 21 to recognize missing and murdered aboriginal women, writes PTBO Canada.

This comes at the suggestion of Anglican Church of Canada Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

He wrote in a recent Anglican Journal column that churches should consider ringing their bells as an "act of remembrance" for the 1,017 aboriginal women and girls who've been killed, and the 164 who've gone missing since 1980.

"To ring the bells is to pray for their families," he said.

The Anglican Church was party to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which established a TRC in which survivors could tell their stories in an effort to create a historic record of the schools and their legacy.

The TRC issued its summary report on Tuesday, with Justice Murray Sinclair saying that residential schools constituted "cultural genocide."

It also issued 94 recommendations to various levels of government, in areas such as education, health and child welfare.

Though the commission has issued its report, the work of reconciliation is not finished. Two of its recommendations were that the federal government establish an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women, and adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has indicated that he won't take either of those actions.

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