Inspired by a national Walk for Reconciliation held in Ottawa a month earlier, a group of local first nations participants held their own walk Monday to call attention to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its recently released report on the impacts of the Indian Residential School system on Canada’s aboriginal communities.
“I’m a residential school survivor; I had my hearing last week,” said Georgina Isaac, who helped organize the local walk. “This really inspired me to come together and really work with my community. It’s grassroots, because that’s where it starts.
“When we work together and put aside our differences, so much can happen.”
The walk through the We Wai Kum neighbourhood was followed by a gathering at the We Wai Kai’s Quinsam Hall. It included participation from the Tsowtunlelum Society, which traveled to Campbell River to provide health and cultural support.
The society provided a brushing ceremony, and Laverne Henderson spoke of her stay in Ottawa for the national Walk for Reconciliation.
“When I left Ottawa I was really sad,” said Henderson. “I came home from a big event, a sad event, a crying event, and when I got to my apartment I felt empty. I prayed this (walk) would happen and my prayers came. Now my heart is full because we’re all here to support one another.”
The walk drew more than two dozen participants, including Campbell River Mayor Andy Adams and councillors Ron Kerr and Charlie Kornfield.
Lena Collins carried a large sign showing a maple leaf split and dripping blood-red teardrops and the number 94, representing the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.
“Both of my parents went to St. Michael’s (residential school), and one of the things that really impacted our community was those schools,” said Collins, whose family is from the Owikeno Nation of Rivers Inlet. “It’s been a long, hard road, but a good road, too. When things were happening back in Ottawa I watched on TV and wanted to be part of it, be part of a change. I told people before this started, ‘Change is coming. It’s happening.’”