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Memorial Christmas tree honours P.E.I. survivor of N.S. residential school

A nine-foot Christmas tree sits outdoors Marlene Thomas’s home on Lennox Island, hung with sparkly balls, sweet canes made from jingle bells, and different ornaments. 

It might look like an peculiar vacation ornament, however it’s rather more. Thomas has invited the neighborhood to assist her embellish the tree in honour of her good friend Charlotte Morris, who died one yr in the past. 

“All people cherished Charlotte and she or he was all the time concerned in every part,” mentioned Thomas. 

“I needed to share [the tree] as a result of she meant quite a bit to everyone … it was becoming to only supply it to my neighborhood,” Thomas instructed Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. 

A woman wearing a tuque and a sweater stands in front of a tall outdoor decorated Christmas tree.
When Thomas could not attend Morris’s wake or funeral in December 2021 as a consequence of COVID-19 restrictions, it was tough, she says. That is partly why she needed to honour her good friend on this approach. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

The bogus Christmas tree belonged to Morris, and a few months in the past, her husband referred to as to say Morris had needed Thomas to have the tree, she mentioned. 

“It took me unexpectedly, however I used to be so pleased. I used to be so pleased to have it,” she mentioned. 

Morris and Thomas each attended the Shubenacadie Residential Faculty in Nova Scotia as youngsters and have become outspoken advocates for residential college survivors. 

“I may very well be right here all day telling you the story about Charlotte and I. We’re each survivors,” mentioned Thomas. 

Morris was vocal about her experiences at residential college and the lack of her Mi’kmaw tradition that she skilled there. It is one thing Thomas can also be captivated with. 

She’s in all probability smiling down on the entire neighborhood actually, as a result of it isn’t simply me, it is everyone.— Marlene Thomas

“It is vital to us to coach,” she mentioned. 

Thomas visits college lessons to discuss her residential college expertise.

She was additionally a part of the Canadian delegation to Rome final spring to witness Pope Francis’s apology to Canada’s Indigenous folks for the conduct of some members of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada’s residential college system. 

‘Hey, Charlotte, your tree is up’

When Morris died on Dec. 17, 2021, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Thomas from attending the wake or the funeral. 

“That damage me quite a bit. And so that is my approach of claiming, ‘Hey, Charlotte, your tree is up,'” mentioned Morris. 

Christmas was a particular vacation for Morris, mentioned Thomas. 

“She cherished Christmas. And so when she discovered this tree, this was what she needed to have,” she mentioned. 

“[This tree] was every part to her, I feel, so far as Christmas goes.”

Charlotte Morris, who died in December 2021, was a staunch advocate for residential college survivors. (Submitted )

Many neighborhood members have come by thus far to hold an decoration on the tree and go to with Thomas over a cup of sizzling chocolate or tea, she mentioned. 

“I feel [Charlotte] is smiling down at me … as a result of lastly I am giving her the tribute that she deserves,” mentioned Thomas.

“She’s in all probability smiling down on the entire neighborhood actually, as a result of it isn’t simply me, it is everyone.”

A hand holds a wooden ornament painted orange with a black heart. Inside the heart is a feather drawing and the words Every child matters.
Thomas will grasp this decoration, honouring residential college survivors and the kids who did not make it house, on the tree as a tribute to Morris. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

Thomas has plans to maintain the tree up previous the vacation season, persevering with to honour her good friend by days comparable to Valentine’s Day, Easter, and the Nationwide Day for Fact and Reconciliation. 

Thomas is saving her personal decoration to hold on the tree final. 

It is a wood circle painted orange, inscribed with the phrases “Each youngster issues” — the message used to honour residential college survivors and the kids who died in these faculties. 

It is Thomas’s approach of paying tribute to Morris and to their advocacy work on behalf of survivors. 

“[The tree] helps quite a bit, and it helps for me to heal,” mentioned Thomas.

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