West End businesses do their part to raise awareness, funds for Truth and Reconciliation

To help create awareness of residential school victims, and the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, My Ol’ Blues in Gore Bay has been creating small orange shirts that visitors to the store can pick up or make a donation toward.

WESTERN MANITOULIN – Two Western Manitoulin businesses, My Ol’ Blues in Gore Bay and Bare Naked Beauty in Kagawong, are doing their part to help those who have lost loved ones and to keep awareness alive of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

Kathy Antonio, owner of My Ol’ Blues told The Expositor recently, “I keep in touch with Maggie Cywink (of Birch Island), whose sister was Sonya Nadine Cywink who was a schoolmate of mine. I went to grade school and high school with Nadine. I hadn’t kept in touch with her for many years. I knew she had passed on, but didn’t know what had happened to her.”

Earlier this summer the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that the family of Sonya Cywink, a homicide victim, is offering $10,000 to an existing $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible.

August 30 of this year marked 27 years since the discovery of Sonya Cywink’s body at the Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site of Canada, located near Iona, in Elgin County, Ontario. As was reported previously in The Expositor, she was last seen alive in London near the intersection of Dundas Street and Lyle Street at about 2 am on August 26, 1994.

Sonya Nadine Cywink was originally from the Whitefish River First Nation. At the time of her death she was living in the east end of London, Ontario, police say.

“It wasn’t until I heard about the 20th anniversary of Sonya’s death that I contacted Maggie and asked her if there was anything I could do,” said Ms. Antonio. “I found out that Maggie initiated and helps to organize gatherings for families in the North that have gone through similar circumstances come to terms with the loss of loved ones and are dealing with grief; and help them come to terms and move forward. Maggie started these gatherings in Whitefish River, and they have been held in 

Quebec and other places like Edmonton.”

“And with the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, which made this more of a national issue; and with the discovery of the 215 residential school victims in Kamloops, British Columbia, which everyone had basically known had taken place for years, I wanted to raise awareness concerning the residential school victims and the Calls to Action, particularly number 41 (which calls upon the federal government, in consultation with Indigenous organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls). The inquiry’s mandate would include investigation into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; and links to the intergenerational legacy of residential school),” said Ms. Antonio. 

“First and most importantly, I wanted to create awareness, and I have a written message on a table at the front of the store entrance explaining why we have created small orange t-shirts that are on hand that 

people can make a donation towards, if they want to, and these funds go to help Maggie and the gatherings she holds for families,” said Ms. Antonio. “This will continue on an ongoing basis to create awareness and open up conversation on the issues.”

Ms. Antonio also provides products like fabrics for quilting to be done at the family gatherings if this is one of the activities to take place, or bags that participants can use, or other products that she will create specifically for the gatherings.

Louis Couillard, of Bare Naked Beauty in Kagawong, helped teach customers at its booth at the recent Younge Street Festival how to make unique bath bombs with the orange colour to symbolize that Every Child Matters.

“And with the funds we raise I know exactly where the funds are going, and I can help out in a grassroots way,” said Ms. Antonio. “I’ve worked directly with Maggie for about five years now.” 

Bare Naked Beauty, owned by Suzie Harrison and Louis Couillard, had a booth set up at the recent Younge Street Festival celebrations in Kagawong. “Upon the discovery of the 215 residential school victims in Kamloops, British Columbia our hearts were deeply saddened and we felt the need to help in some small way. We tried to figure out, in our small capacity, what we could do,” the couple explained.

“We created a unique bath bomb, with the orange colour to symbolize that every child matters,” the couple explained. “Inside are 215 salt crystals, dyed red to represent the 215 children that never made it home. We hope for healing, through recognition, justice and education. All proceeds of the bath bombs will go to three non-profit organizations, supporting the Indigenous community through awareness and support.”

Mr. Couillard pointed out that $4,000 has been raised through the sale of bath bombs thus far and that this is an ongoing campaign.

The bath bombs can be purchased at the store itself for $10, or on the Bare Naked Beauty webpage.