Vancouver is set to host a series of events next week focused on reconciliation.
Beginning with a traditional fire-lighting ceremony on September 16 and culminating in a downtown Walk for Reconciliation expected to draw an estimated 50,000 people on September 22, Reconciliation Week will coincide with a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada event.
So far, almost 300 teams have registered for the Walk for Reconciliation, including representatives from major educational institutions, local and senior governments, corporations, and various multicultural groups.
Karen Joseph, the executive director of Reconciliation Canada, an organization dedicated to building new relationships between aboriginal people and all Canadians, says the event is “not just another walk”.
“We’re inviting people to come and join us in a transformative process,” she told the Georgia Straight by phone.
The walk’s symbolic and cultural significance will be recognized through traditions including blessings at the start of the day, walkers passing under a hemlock archway, and drumming from multicultural groups. Volunteers will also be posing questions to participants to spark discussion throughout the event.
“The most important part of the walk really is the dialogue that will go on as people are moving through this process,” Joseph said. “And what I hope to have them take away from that is an understanding of where they fit in this process, so what’s their responsibility, or what opportunities do they have in their lives to actually act reconciliation, whether that’s within their family life, their work life, their social life, or the other aspects of their life....We all have multiple spheres of influence, so I think the number one message is that reconciliation begins with me.”
After completing the walk, participants will receive tiles created by elementary-school students across the province.
“All of those students have gone through a very short curriculum about what do they hope for us to achieve, what does reconciliation mean to them,” Joseph explained. “So they are messages of hope and messages of where they would like us to go.”
Reconciliation Week activities will also include an All Nations Canoe Gathering, which will take place on September 17 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The event, which will see more than 60 boats paddle into False Creek from Vanier Park, will include traditional cedar dugout canoes and will feature residential-school survivors, First Nations leaders, and various other multicultural participants. A Maori team from New Zealand will also be taking part, according to Joseph.
The canoe journey will conclude at Science World, where participants will be welcomed by chiefs from the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations in a traditional ceremony. Remarks will be delivered by speakers including Chief Robert Joseph, Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and John Rustad, B.C.’s minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation.
Following a 9 a.m. opening ceremony, the September 22 four-kilometre (or two-kilometre alternate route) Walk for Reconciliation will begin from Queen Elizabeth Plaza at West Georgia and Hamilton streets and end at Science World.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s sixth national event will take place at the PNE from September 18 to 21. The event, which is intended to educate Canadians about the legacy of residential schools, is open to the public.