Walk for Reconciliation draws thousands in Vancouver

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      Karen Joseph’s face lit up with a smile as she crossed the Dunsmuir viaduct today and caught a glimpse of the crowd taking part in the Walk for Reconciliation.

      The executive director of Reconciliation Canada said she thought the rain would affect the turnout for the 4-kilometre march marking the end of Reconciliation Week in Vancouver.

      But numbers that were estimated in the tens of thousands showed up, filling West Georgia Street with colourful umbrellas as participants listened to speeches from guests including Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

      “There were so many thousands of people that both viaducts were filled from the beginning to the end, and there were still more people coming,” Joseph said in an interview following the walk.

      “I was just feeling so blessed at that moment, that so many people came out in spite of the weather to show their commitment to reconciliation, and their commitment to creating a new society that embraces all of us as we move forward.”

      First Nations groups sang, drummed and danced as they led the walk from Queen Elizabeth Plaza to Concord Place, passing by tents featuring multicultural drummers along the route.

      The walk was the final event in a week of activities focused on reconciliation between indigenous people and all Canadians. For four days, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard testimonies from residential school survivors as part of the commission’s sixth national event across the country.

      Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the TRC, thanked survivors for sharing their stories with the commission and with the public.

      “I want you to know that we understand how brave it was for you to stand up before us, and before all the people who were there at the event this week, and talk about those stories, and talk about those pains, and share your tears,” he said in advance of the walk today (September 22).

      “And at the same time, to share your laughter. To talk about the good things, to talk about your resilience. To talk about how it was that you came through this—and to declare to all of those who were listening that we are still here.”

      Sinclair referred to the work of reconciliation as “a challenge to this country”.

      “But the most important part of it is that Canada must understand that this is not an aboriginal problem,” he said. “This is a Canadian problem.”

      During a passionate speech, King issued a challenge to all sectors to “step up to the plate” to take action on reconciliation.

      “We must ensure that economic empowerment is a part of the way forward, and we must ensure that you do not give up on this process,” she said.

      “This is no time for apathy or complacency­—this is a time for vigorous and positive action. This requires leadership action on all fronts in Canada. From political and government, corporate, faith, educational, and community leadership. Because, as I said, we are all in this together.”

      Like his daughter Karen Joseph, Chief Robert Joseph was also moved to see the large turnout at the walk today. The hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk Nation and ambassador for Reconciliation Canada originally envisioned the idea for a reconciliation walk to coincide with the TRC event.

      “You can’t imagine how I feel when I see the sea of people and umbrellas,” he told the crowd. “This is such a powerful symbol of our desire together, as Canadians, aboriginals, and others, to look for a new way forward. Something different than the past that we have inherited.”

      But he acknowledged that the path ahead “will not be easy”.

      “Everyone here in this space today, this sacred space, has something to contribute to reconciliation,” he said.

      “Let us not leave this time and this place without taking this idea with us, talking to our friends and our neighbours, and everyone that will listen to us. Let us create the critical mass that needs to be built, for not everyone believes in the things that we’re talking about today." 

      Other guests in attendance at today’s event included Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Mayor Gregor Robertson, TRC commissioner Marie Wilson, and B.C.’s minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad.

      The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, has a final national event scheduled in Alberta in March 2014. 




      Sep 22, 2013 at 7:22pm

      Oh, so that's what had me stuck in traffic today. Eff U.


      Sep 22, 2013 at 7:57pm

      Every person regardless of his race, gender, sexual orientation. or religion deserves respect , acceptance, equal opportunity, and dignity. If we hope to achieve lasting peace for all, we need share carefully and equally in everything for each person. By marginalizing any group as so sadly happened in years past to our brothers and sisters, we only perpetuate anger and hostilities. We have to stop making so many distinctions between each other...we all bleed when we are cut.

      Lets choose peace. Lets choose compassion. Lets really care what happens to anyone who is marginalized.


      Sep 22, 2013 at 11:27pm

      I had really wanted to attend todays walk but was unable to. None the less, by the sound of the numbers in attendance, it was very well attended. We stand with all of you, if not merely by our presence but in our hearts and spirits too.

      the jerk

      Sep 23, 2013 at 5:56am

      That's really great, It is always a good thing when people come together, but a question?
      What do the first nations people want? It's easy to throw around terms like reconciliation, What does it mean? They already get free education; the majority of canadians already acknowledge that our treatment of aboriginals has been atrocious, and in many northern communities, people bend over backwards to hire aboriginals with infinitely less skill than their non minority applicants (as an oilpatch worker I have seen it for years).

      So, what has been accomplished here?not much it seems, just more talk no solutions, it all comes back around to 'give us free money and or our land back'...It gets old..


      Sep 23, 2013 at 11:06am


      Trolling for thumbs? Listen, if you're on the level, you may want to know that aboriginal leaders are looking for solutions, not handouts.

      Some are doing it in ways that are, uh, touchy-feely...as a former manual laboring type of fellow I can see that a lot of this feather-waving and sobbing seems a bit... re-stigmatizing.

      But I also think that it is trying to rescue the damaged self-identity and in that way, people can address the present with a tad of self-confidence.

      Other aboriginal leaders are taking a more practical line, too. Check out Chief Clarence Louis of Osoyoos Band. He's all about aboriginal = hard work, self-sustaining business, employment, and having good jobs.
      The touchy-feely stuff is not his line, at all.


      Sep 23, 2013 at 2:45pm

      I have no debate about the walk itself or what it represents, but with all the options for places to hold it, why turn downtown Vancouver into an infrastructure apocalypse on a day when residents are clearly going to be trying to get out of town, and when a dozen other construction projects are underway causing commuter chaos? And why was the Burrard Bridge basically shut down?


      Sep 23, 2013 at 5:55pm

      @the jerk. Really? Free education? I'm FN and I certainly did not get "free" university education. It's that kind of idiotic misinformation that spreads like wildfire. Get an education and learn about your Canadian history that institutions funded by government spent years trying to minimize or hide in some instances. I'm a teacher and I know what is deliberately missing from our curriculum.


      Sep 23, 2013 at 7:51pm

      Why downtown Vancouver? Because it's central. Easy for many people to reach if they wanted to join the walk, whether they were coming from Vancouver itself, the north shore, Richmond, Burnaby, New West, Surrey, etc. Also, a central location means visibility and media coverage.

      The Burrard bridge wasn't "basically shut down" and the traffic problems there are due to construction on Cornwall, not this.


      Sep 23, 2013 at 10:16pm

      @ RUK your post is spot on! Yes, some of those need a good group hug once and a while to ease whatever pain, real or perceived, they need soothing. And yes, there are some excellent, progressive leaders in the native community, although I'm disappointed they don't get nearly the exposure as all these negative nellies...

      Ben Sili

      Sep 23, 2013 at 10:22pm

      So when white collectors buy for $100 million a year of native art in Vancouver, some stunning pieces among them, is that considered exploitation or reconciliation?