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B.C. man stops in Saint John on cross-country walk to bring awareness to murdered Indigenous women

Click to play video: 'Man walks across Canada to raise awareness for MMIWG'
Man walks across Canada to raise awareness for MMIWG
WATCH: Matthew Jefferson left Victoria about a year ago after his aunt, Frances Brown went missing along the Highway of Tears in northern B.C. Jefferson is trying to raise awareness and also educate non-Indigenous Canadians about what they can do to work towards reconciliation – May 30, 2019

A British Columbia man who left Victoria on foot about a year ago has arrived in Saint John, stepping closer to his end destination and furthering his efforts of reconciliation.

“Every step that I take towards Cape Spear, Newfoundland, which is my destination, it’s a step towards change, it’s a step towards an informed Canada,” said Matthew Jefferson.

“That’s the whole premise of this entire journey–is to educate and break down those systemic barriers so that we’re all cognizant of what’s going on in our country,” he added.

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Over the last year Jefferson has walked 7,241 kilometres to help raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“I’m currently walking across Canada, not only to help raise awareness … but also to help break down those systemic barriers between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people,” Jefferson said.

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Jefferson is part of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Smithers, B.C. The community is bordered by Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears named for the number of Indigenous women that have disappeared along the 720 kilometre stretch of road.

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It was the disappearance of one of those women that pushed Jefferson to begin The Walk to Remember.

On October 14, 2017, Jefferson’s aunt, Frances Brown went missing while mushroom picking just north of Smithers, in the area of the Highway of Tears.

A photo of Brown adorns his 55 lbs. pack as he walks up to 65 kilometres a day, meeting with various people and communities along the way. Jefferson says the response from the 62 different First Nations communities that he has visited has been remarkable, but part of his goal is to educate the non-Indigenous community about the MMIWG issue.

“With the settler community, it’s a lot of surprise, that they haven’t heard about it sooner,” he said when asked what the response has been from non-Indigenous Canadians.

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“They want to help, but they don’t know how to… It’s part of my journey now, is to help educate them and give them means with which they can confront and get ahead of this … and work with indigenous communities to help them find their loved ones.”

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In many ways Jefferson’s journey mirrors the path of reconciliation. The calls to action set forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission aren’t just steps to be ticked off of a list, rather they are starting points for all Canadians to work together towards reconciliation. Jefferson adds that reconciliation is an ongoing process, not a single act.

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“The word reconciliation is thrown out there all the time,” he said.

“My understanding of reconciliation, it’s not a one off thing. It’s not a promise, it’s not an apology. Reconciliation happens every single day. And it’s not just indigenous people that need reconciliation, it’s non-indigenous and our immigrants that need reconciliation. We all need to know that we matter.”

Jefferson will spend the next several weeks in the Maritimes and is due to give a talk in Halifax on June 10.

He hopes to finish his trek sometime in July in Newfoundland.

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