James Kennedy students Chloe McIlroy and sisters Kalani and Hattie Aldag were given the highest honour a person can receive in the Aboriginal community, when they were blanketed for their efforts to raise money and awareness about the crisis at the Attawapiskat Reserve in northern Ontario.
The girls were given the honour during the school’s Truth and Reconciliation assembly on Monday, June 6.
In total, they raised $2,326, which will go to buy arts, crafts and sports equipment for youth on the reserve.
James Kennedy students are also writing positive messages and will send them to the Ontario community, along with books for both children and adults.
“I think this will show them that you care — that there are people across the country who are caring for them and thinking of them,” said Luke Dandurand, an Aboriginal support worker who helped the students put together the fundraiser that ran for two weeks in May.
The original goal was to raise $671, representing $1 for each child living at Attawapiskat. But students and the community were so supportive of the idea, the money raised far exceeded that.
A state of emergency was issued at the remote reserve after several children committed suicide and many others attempted suicide. The situation brought to light the Third World conditions the Attawapiskat people are living under.
Grade 7 student Hattie Aldag, daughter of Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag, came across an article written in 2011 about the conditions on the reserve. She was shocked that nothing had changed for the better since then.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to visit the reserve next week. But Aboriginal leaders say despite the amount of attention the reserve is getting, little has changed in terms of providing help for mental health.
The three girls were blanketed and honoured for the good work they have done, said Dandurand, who has been attending the Truth and Reconciliation assemblies happening at Langley schools this month.