It was for the children and about the children. Children who had never become adults, and adults who had never been children, from generation to generation.
A baby cooed softly now and again from the back of the EITC Atrium of the University of Manitoba, during two hours of speeches, of drumming and singing. An eight-year-old boy sat pensively, wisely, absorbing the sacred, witnessing the trust. A workman in a yellow hard hat stood along a railing, high above the speakers’ platform. He was watching, listening intently.
Those who sat on the platform might have been said to radiate. Each person, male, female, elder, politician, commissioner, celebrity, president, was a survivor in some sense, with a story told directly from the heart. Each was a communicator imbued with responsibility and a generosity of spirit that was poignant, dignified, tragic and joyous. Those who had come to take part in the historic event sat in rows of white chairs, rapt and open, clapping, laughing, sometimes wiping away tears.
But in fact the deal was not sealed until the Edmund Partridge Community School Chamber Choir began to sing, under the leadership and accompaniment of Director, Tim Friesen. The children sang two numbers: The Water Is Wide, and Count On Me. They were dressed in matching maroon tops, most wearing shorts. Like the eminent figures on the speakers’ platform, the children were ambassadors, carrying light from the present, for those who went before them and those who will follow after.
During the Signing Ceremony of the Agreement to Host the National Research Centre on Residential Schools, which took place on the campus of the University of Manitoba on the morning of the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2013, the Edmund Partridge Community School Chamber Choir sealed a deal which did not require a pen or paper. On the longest day of the year, they sang of promise, and they sang of innocence, and they sang of a willingness to try again.