Residential schools survivors are calling on Canada to observe May 26 as a National Day of Healing and Reconciliation.
The day would coincide with the “National Sorry Day” started by the Aboriginals in Australia. “We want the day to be recognized as a day geared towards justice through healing and reconciliation with Canada,” said one of the organizers, Harry Ferland, Grand Rapids First Nations.
To help launch the day First Nations communities are planning a 1066-km journey from Fox Lake Cree Nation in Manitoba to the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg. The Unity Walk/Run (May 26 to June 3) will take place under the theme “Canada Heal with Me.” This would be the first phase of a National Run to Ottawa, said Mr. Ferland.
Although June 21 is Canada’s National Aboriginal Day — a day to celebrate the cultures and contribution to Canada by First Nations– “this day does not talk of the healing process that we need to go through as residential school survivors,” said Mr. Ferland. “It is just celebratory in nature. We need to heal before we celebrate.”
May 21, will focus on healing the generational hurts inflicted by Canada’s officials and institutions, said Mr. Ferland. This initiative is meant to create an awareness and educational atmosphere at the regional, national and international level regarding residential schools and their survivors, he said. The Unity walk/run is in memory of those who have died without getting the chance to heal the hurts caused by residential schools. It is also a spiritual event focusing on re-awakening ties to the Creator.
Most importantly it is a call by the elders to the younger generation to help them in the healing process, said Mr. Ferland.
Currently the devastating effects of the schools and Canadian policy towards First Nations people are all too apparent, said Mr. Ferland. “First Nations represent the high and low statistics in jails, employment and education.”
Before Confederation and for the first half of the 20th Century, Canadian policy towards First Nations was assimilation. It was thought that the quickest route to “civilizing” and “converting” the indigenous population was to forcibly remove children from their homes and communities and place them in residential schools.
Between 1820 and 1969, the Anglican Church of Canada administered 26 Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the federal government. By 1969, the church had withdrawn from residential schools and committed itself to building more just relationships with its indigenous members, as well as advocating on behalf of the indigenous population.
In 1992, the church established a special Aboriginal Healing Fund. In 2003, it reached an agreement with the federal government through which it committed itself to paying $25 million to a Residential School Settlement Fund. The church has also developed healing and educational events for people who were wounded and traumatized at residential schools.
For further information please contact:
Grand Rapids First Nation
Harry Ferland (204) 639-2417
Percy Ballantyne (204) 639-4410
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