Catholic Vancouver Sept. 13, 2017

Indigenous organizers hope for massive crowd at second Walk for Reconciliation

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Drummers participate in a Walk for Reconciliation in 2013. A similar walk is planned for Sept. 24 and organizers hope as many as 100,000 will attend. (BCC file photo)

VANCOUVER—Thousands of people flooded Georgia Street in the name of peace and reconciliation in 2013. Now, indigenous organizers are hoping they will do so again.

Walk for Reconciliation is scheduled to hit Cambie and Georgia Streets Sept. 24. The two-kilometre demonstration will end at Strathcona Park, where indigenous performers and keynote speaker Chief Perry Bellegarde will take the stage.

Reconciliation is not just for us as individual people, but it’s for all Canadians.
Deacon Rennie Nahanee

“Reconciliation is an ongoing process,” said Squamish nation member and Catholic deacon Rennie Nahanee. “People need to know that reconciliation is not just for us as individual people, but it’s for all Canadians.”

The last reconciliation walk was held at the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013. Despite pouring rain, more than 10,000 people (some estimates said as many as 70,000) participated.  Now, Deacon Nahanee is hoping for 100,000.

“People think our history is just about the residential school. It’s not. It’s a colonial history of Canada, and the treatment of the Indigenous people was pretty horrible,” said the deacon.

“It’s not about a bad day at school. It’s about a bad life starting with losing our lands years ago and being put on reserves.”

Thousands of people are seen participating in the reconciliation event in 2013. (BCC file photo)

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has also said he hopes to see 100,000 people walk down Georgia Street, while Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, wrote a letter Aug. 29 strongly encouraging Catholics to participate.

“The Catholic Church played a role in the residential school tragedy,” wrote Archbishop Miller. Five residential schools existed in the bounds of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

“A century of cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse took place at our doorsteps, while a policy of suppressive aboriginal cultures and languages was perpetrated. This deeply flawed policy has led to enormous pain and suffering through succeeding generations.”

He called this year’s Walk for Reconciliation a “praiseworthy initiative.”

Deacon Nahanee is partnering with members of Anglican, United, and other churches to promote the walk and is hoping it will aid ongoing reconciliation efforts between churches and indigenous people.

“We have a responsibility toward all peoples who are poor and face oppression. Deep down inside, everybody knows that, yet, there have to be actions with those nice thoughts.”