Ceremonies are being held across the country to mark the 2023 Truth and Reconciliation Day and in Vancouver, thousands of people were out en masse attending many events around the city.
United in song and wearing orange, they marched together along Vancouver’s Commercial Drive.
The friendship walk was organized by the Brittania Community Services Centre.
It began around 9:30 a.m. with attendees meeting outside the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre.
“We are here to celebrate, remember, and listen to stories of survivors and acknowledge the truth and build on reconciliation,” Suzette Amaya, an organizer, said. “We are happy the community has come together and we have a lot of allies here today.”
The turnout of people across the city has Amaya hopeful that the message has been received by the British Columbians that everyone can play a role on Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“It is not just showing up and wearing an orange shirt. It’s showing that there are changes happening in this country and that we are here to acknowledge that. It’s really exciting that there are events across the Lower Mainland.”
Over at Trout Lake, organizers made certain there was plenty of bannock for those who gathered. They were focused on nurturing one another — physically with food and emotionally.
“To see everyone involved … It’s really important. I have parents and grandparents who attended residential school. My parents were survivors and I am affected by the residential school system,” Rebecca Quaw Hackett, an Elder, said. “It’s really great to see that schools, organizations and non-Indigenous people are getting involved. It really warms my heart.”
A massive sea of orange shirts was also flowing on the UBC campus.
“I feel a responsibility to be involved,” said Danilo Caron, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at UBC. “Over the years it’s grown and that’s largely due to a willingness of people to contribute – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.”
The weight of Sept. 30 is heavy for Indigenous people because of the lasting impacts of colonialism and the intergenerational trauma the Indian residential school system has caused communities. Caron, a member of Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, has been involved in the march since its inception.
“My mom is a residential school survivor, and my grandmother and my aunties and uncles are day school survivors and have a half-sister who’s a 60 Scoop survivor,” he said. “So I feel that responsibility, I’m not sure where it ends and where my responsibility just kind of picks up. So I’m still navigating that.”
This year is the first year National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a statutory holiday in British Columbia and Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, a member of Hwlitsum First Nation and senior manager of equity, diversity, inclusion and indigeneity at the university, said it’s long overdue.
“I’m glad that people have this day to go out and get educated and learn more and bring their families,” she said. “In my generation, nobody learned this in school and I see the difference with my kids in high school and what they’re learning; really good steps and changes are being made so this is all part of those good steps and changes — it’s about time.“
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society operates the Lamathut Crisis Line a 24-hour crisis line (1-800-721-0066) to support survivors and families.
— With files from Haley Lewis and Catherine Urquhart