Hundreds gathered in a torrential downpour near Terrace’s Millennium Trail to honour the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The unity walk, organized by Tears to Hope Society, was open to all members of the public and saw people march the length of the trail on Thursday afternoon.
“This being the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, the day is about honouring the survivors of Indian residential school, as well as all of the children that never made it home,” said Lorna Brown, co-founder of Tears to Hope.
With Canada officially declaring Sept. 30 as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on June 3 – soon after the remains of children’s bodies were discovered at the sites of former residential schools – Brown said the holiday was long overdue.
“It’s 150 years overdue,” said Brown, adding, “Our people have been telling our stories for decades and now it’s just being recognized and to be able to see non-Indigenous people coming and being a part of today is huge and we’re just honoured for every person that’s here.”
The gathering was also a “safe space” for residential school survivors and a place to share their stories. Elders and residential school survivors from local First Nations spoke at the event.
“We’re welcoming everyone to come down here, as we gather together to remember children and all of the ones that never made it home,” said Brown.
Speaking about the turnout, Birgitte Bartlett, the other co-founder of Tears to Hope Society, said it was great to see the large gathering in support of the cause.
“It’s really important that it’s not just the Indigenous community that showed up but it’s everybody, because at some point, if we’re going to have truth and reconciliation, we need to be able to meet together and I think this is a perfect time, it’s a safe space,” said Bartlett.
She also said while it’s important that the survivors tell their stories, it is more important the rest of the people listen with an open heart.
While some members from the City of Terrace council attended the event, organizers and supporters were disappointed with the lack of official participation from the city.
The council released a Reconciliation Value Statement on Sept. 27, and raised an orange flag in honour of the day.
Indigenous activist Gladys Radek and Erica Davis, a representative of the Matriarchs in Training group, questioned why the City of Terrace did not organize anything in honour of the day.
Radek also critiqued the city’s decision to lower the orange flag at the end of October and said that because the flag represents a part of Canada’s history, it must be kept raised at all times.