7th Anniversary Impact Stories: Why We Walk

Sep 22, 2020

The “Why We Walk” campaign asked individuals to share their story and personal connection to the reconciliation movement. Stories were shared in the weeks leading up to the Walk for Reconciliation in 2017. Today, we feature two powerful impact stories to mark the 7th anniversary of our inaugural walk.

Brooke Fairley

“To me, reconciliation means giving respect to the first people and honouring the teachings of the land that we are so blessed to live on. I grew up on the land of the Squamish Nation and I have made so many friends and learned so many lessons from the Squamish People that I carry with me. More recently, I began working with a Squamish Nation elder. She always says “culture is our medicine.” That’s something that has really stuck with me. Through learning about her culture, traditions and teachings, I have really seen how culture is medicine. That’s where the healing comes from—resurging the teachings and the old ways.

I understand that we always see things through the lens of our own culture and our own lives. I am a white, fourth-generation settler so I always see things through my mainstream, dominant, privileged lens. I have learned so much from her to expand my own thinking and I recognize that I have been so honoured to work under her teachings. She has further abled me to understand my role as a settler, my role as a mother, my role as a human being and as a spirit on this earth.

To learn how to understand others, how to live with people, how to live with our land, and how to respect one another— that’s really what it’s all about. That’s what reconciliation means to me.”

Sphenia Jones

“I went to a residential school in the late 1950s. I was about 11 years old, and I worked in the infirmary there. I remember stealing foods for the kids or the babies in the infirmary because they were so hungry. I would take whatever I could find, like peanut butter sandwiches or even raw potatoes. When I got caught, I had to scrub floors with a toothbrush for four months. I tried my best to protect the kids in that school and, even today, they thank me for what I did because they remember being so hungry.

Lots of people say things like – “that didn’t happen” – but it did. They say – “oh, get over it” – but we have to talk about it first. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we can do. I had a hard time forgiving the ones that abused me, but it was vital to get on with my life. I was anchored to the past, which made me sick. When I let everything go, I started getting better.

So, what does reconciliation mean to me? It means looking after the little ones which are the biggest hope for the future, and it means healing as our souls come together as one.”

Impact Story: Kevin McCort

Apr 1, 2016

Kevin McCort is President and CEO of Vancouver Foundation. McCort’s past work in international development often engaged Indigenous communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. When he moved to Vancouver in September 2013, one of the first events he participated in with Vancouver Foundation was the Walk for Reconciliation. He says, “that was where I really began to understand and appreciate the reconciliation narrative and to see how Vancouver Foundation was a part of that story.” From then on, he has been actively supporting Vancouver Foundation’s role as a donor and ally in supporting First Nations achievement and aspirations.

This year, Vancouver Foundation has embarked upon a series of Pilot Dialogues in collaboration with Reconciliation Canada. This work is a co-creation of a new tool for engagement within the organization, and for interactions with community and in personal settings. The Foundation’s staff attended Reconciliation Dialogues both to understand the critical role that they play as a Community Foundation, and to explore actions that could be taken at personal and organizational levels to continue this important work of reconciliation.

For McCort, the future of the Foundation’s journey involves doing more as an organization by being deliberate in supporting the reconciliation movement. He notes that working with a vision of reconciliation will improve various aspects of their work and even change the nature and fabric of their leadership.

McCort believes that reconciliation it is a collective and long journey that cannot be accomplished alone, for “reconciliation belongs to everyone”.

Impact Story - Kevin McCourt_1

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Impact Story: Emily Singer

Mar 24, 2016

Emily Singer became involved with Reconciliation Canada shortly after moving to Vancouver. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, Singer was looking for an opportunity where she could make a real, substantive difference. She stumbled upon a volunteer posting for a Social Media Coordinator with Reconciliation Canada, and although she admits she did not know a lot about Indigenous issues in Canada, she submitted an application and has been volunteering for Reconciliation for the last three years.

Over the last three years, Singer helped Reconciliation Canada grow from a small organization with less than 100 Twitter followers to a nationally significant charity. During this time, she credits the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver and the TRC Closing Events as defining moments in her reconciliation journey.

“When I saw the crowds of people crossing the viaducts in Vancouver in the rain it was hard to believe that a few months earlier I’d been at a meeting in a crowded coffee shop worrying about how to get people out on the day,” she reflects. “I absolutely could not believe the number of people who came out on that day.”

Singer will be taking a break from volunteering with Reconciliation Canada as she finishes her Masters degree, but this does not mean that she will be taking a break from reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is a lens that you apply to your life, it is a way of looking at things and I think once you start looking at the world through your reconciliation lens you can’t stop. I will still be promoting reconciliation on a smaller scale in my life through understanding, education and the way I interact with the world.”


Impact Story - Emily Singer_Edited

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Impact Story – Lance Scout

Mar 18, 2016

For Lance Scout, reconciliation means, “The choice to take back the child we’ve left behind and honouring the human spirit and our gift, the land.”

The Reconciliation Canada team first met Lance at a Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop in May 2015.

As an intergenerational survivor of the Indian Residential School system, Scout has faced a number of challenges within his family and community. However, his involvement in reconciliation has given him the opportunity to reflect on his traditional values, and feel liberated to take the steps needed to achieve his goals.

“Denial and violence has impacted me so much and now understanding my parents’ journey within their childhoods relieves me of so much animosity within my life,” says Scout.

Scout became involved in reconciliation through his work as a Resolution Health Support Worker with the Blood Tribe Department of Health Inc. He provided emotional support during the Alberta Regional Hearing tours and worked as a team lead for the Blood Tribe’s Cultural Support Providers at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) National Event in Edmonton.

Scout’s commitment to reconciliation led him to become a project coordinator for seven major commemoration projects on the Blood Tribe. These projects received an endorsement from TRC Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild, who saw this undertaking as invaluable in reviving language, culture and ceremony within the Blood Tribe.
Ceremony is now thriving within his home community.

“Honestly, it’s made me the man I am today: sober and able to help my people through the traditional channels of language, art and song,” reflects Scout.

Scout plans to continue advocating healing and reconciliation. In 2016 he will continue to promote reconciliation throughout his community by hosting the second annual Reconciliation Week in Medicine Hat, AB.


Impact Story - Lance Scout_Edited

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Impact Story – Jessica Bolduc

Mar 11, 2016

Jessica Bolduc has been on a lifelong reconciliation journey. For her, moments and stories, invitations and opportunities have landed her as part of a team of young people looking to move reconciliation forward in Canada. As Executive Director of the 4Rs Youth Movement, a youth-led initiative that focuses on connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people in Canada, Bolduc wanted 4Rs to be more involved with other reconciliation organizations.

As part of the closing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Bolduc was invited to participate in Reconciliation Canada’s panel discussion Inspiring Reconciliaction: Creating a New Way Forward, where she spoke on her work of bringing together youth through dialogue and learning. This panel followed the Walk for Reconciliation, which saw 10,000 people walk through downtown Ottawa. Participating in that historic moment were two bus loads of youth who were brought in from Toronto by 4Rs, Inspirit Foundation, Canadian Roots Exchange and KAIROS.

“Together we participated in the Walk for Reconciliation,” said Bolduc. “We were a part of history.”

Looking forward, Bolduc will be taking some time to pause and reflect to better understand what is needed to support young people in coming together through face-to-face dialogue.

Through her work with 4Rs, Bolduc will continue to encourage communities to create spaces for Indigenous youth to learn about who they are as well as for allies to learn about how they can support reconciliation.

“My vision for reconciliation is one where my nieces and nephews have equal opportunity as any other child living here to be who they want to be,” reflects Bolduc. “It’s not so much to ask.”


Jess Bolduc
Photo credit: Fatin Chowdhury

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Impact Story – North Vancouver District Public Library

Mar 4, 2016

The North Vancouver District Public Library (NVDPL) has been supporting the reconciliation process through its key role in the community. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released the executive summary of its final report, librarians at the NVDPL immediately saw it as an opportunity to continue their reconciliation journey. They initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Pledge Project to encourage people in their community to read the TRC executive summary. Barbara Kelly, Manager, Community Engagement says “the response was overwhelming, both in numbers and in its genuine commitment”.

The library also hosted an evening event in honour of the Community Commitment to Truth, Healing and Reconciliation in recognition that community dialogue is key in the reconciliation process. Reconciliation Canada team member Shelley Joseph was invited to deliver the keynote speech and speak about her experiences as an intergenerational Survivor. For librarian Paul Taylor, “The experience of hearing members of the Squamish Nation,Tsleil-Waututh Nation and others speak about the effect upon them and their people of the residential school system was extremely moving.”

What does Reconciliation through Education look like? How can we reevaluate existing educational practices to promote reconciliation? These are also questions that have been discussed at the NVDP library at the end of a massive open online course titled Reconciliation through Indigenous Education that was taught by Jan Hare, Anishnaabe Professor of Indigenous Education at the University of British Columbia.

Librarian Jacqui Jones-Cox says that through these initiatives the library staff try to, “bring the issue out to a larger audience and give personal voice to the stories to help create a bridge to healing and empathy. We cannot re-write the wrongs but we can acknowledge them and ensure they are never repeated and along the way hopefully engender understanding, trust and respect.”


Impact Story - NVDPL

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Impact Story – Brandy Lekakis

Feb 26, 2016

Reconciliation began a very long time ago for Brandy Lekakis. Her parents helped her learn about Coast Salish culture and brought her up with conversations about Indigenous people across the country. She was appalled that all Canadians did not know about the Indian Residential School system. She “dreamed of a day when this crime would be revealed to Canadians, and we could work together to right the wrongs.”

For Lekakis, reconciliation means working together and having meaningful communication with Indigenous leaders and communities about issues that affect all Canadians. It also “means a place at the political table for Indigenous people, an effective Inquiry for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, economic success and infrastructures in Indigenous communities, an education system that contains Indigenous language, culture, context and perspectives for all Canadian learners.”

As an educator, Lekakis feels it’s been an enormous gift to be able to teach her students about the Indigenous people of Canada. She has found great interest from students to learn more not only about the Indian Residential School system, but also about Indigenous languages, cultures, histories,and worldviews.

Lekakis has been instrumental in putting together Delview Secondary School’s Annual Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Delta, BC. This is a full day focused on reconciliation and the history and legacy of Residential Schools where students, elders and intergenerational Survivors participate in a number of powerful interactive activities. In May 2015, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Ambassador of Reconciliation Canada, was invited to deliver a keynote speech to Delview students on this significant day.

Planning has already begun for the Third Annual Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and Lekakis looks forward to continue working with First Nations communities to create curriculum specific to Indigenous perspectives.

 To read more Impact Stories and for our full Impact Report 2015, click here.

Andrea Reimer – Councillor, City of Vancouver

Sep 19, 2014

Andrea Reimer has been a catalyst in the historical initiatives and actions that the City of Vancouver has undertaken to advance Reconciliation.

The City of Vancouver was the first municipality in Canada to proclaim a ‘Year of Reconciliation’ that began on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2013. This proclamation acknowledges the harms that were done to Indigenous people, including the residential school system, and created a space for meaningful reconciliation gatherings, apologies, dialogues, public education and artistic initiatives to take place.

Throughout this year of reconciliation, the City of Vancouver worked closely with Reconciliation Canada, the City’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and hundreds of community partners. For Andrea, “the year of reconciliation had a transformative impact on the people that were directly touched by coming to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events, the canoe gathering, the library activities, the lunch and learns, or the walk for reconciliation. You could almost see them turning and shifting their perspectives and directions.”

Andrea recalls a very emotional moment at a community reconciliation event where a young Indigenous woman gave her a hug after the event and said: “I never knew I mattered to the City of Vancouver”. Andrea says this was one of those moments where she felt the world shifting: “For a thirteen or fourteen year old to know that she really matters is so important. She will go on to be a strong leader in her community, in my community, and she will inspire other strong leaders. That is the change that matters.”

For Andrea, as we go forward together, our process of reconciliation has to address the issues of economic disparity that still exists between Indigenous communities and the majority of Canadians. As economic reconciliation is essential, the City of Vancouver will work towards this goal by deepening and strengthening its relationships with the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh nations.

The concept of a Year of Reconciliation is very powerful but it has a formal end date to work that is only just beginning. How do we reconcile this? First, the City has formally acknowledged that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the three Host First Nations. This means acknowledging that there is an inherent right to economic prosperity for all. Second, Mayor and Council have approved the concept of designating Vancouver as a City of Reconciliation. Defining what this means will be a collective process that each one of us can participate in.

Andrea believes that Vancouver can play a leadership role in supporting other municipalities that are ready to embrace reconciliation: “You cannot legislate for someone to reconcile but you can create that space for reconciliation to happen so that we get to the place we need to be together”.

For more information:

Lillian Howard, Co-Chair, Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee

For Lillian Howard, reconciliation has both a personal and professional meaning. As a residential school survivor and Co-Chair of the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee (UAPAC), for Howard, reconciliation has been a long journey.

When Chief Robert Joseph presented the idea of Reconciliation Week to UAPAC, Howard became very involved.

A resolution was tabled, with the help of Councillor Andrea Reimer, to extend Reconciliation Week to the Year of Reconciliation. It also sought to officially name Vancouver as the City of Reconciliation and acknowledge the rights of indigenous peoples in the UN declaration.

To their delight, city council passed it unanimously.

“There has been a lot of relationship building between City Hall, local first nations and different organisations,” says Howard. “We were ready for Reconciliation Week, but had no idea what to expect.”

Howard was among Indigenous and community leaders who produced 13 doable items and 25 recommendations at the Reconciliation Summit, which initiated Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation.

One of the first events of Reconciliation Week, the All Nations Canoe Gathering was particularly memorable for Howard. Canoe gatherings play an important role in Indigenous communities as healing journeys, to which Howard can attest.

“For the first time I felt like we were formally welcomed by the local first nations,” says Howard. “I feel like I can live here now with dignity and pride.”

Howard also shared her story as a residential school survivor at the Truth and Reconciliation Forum. “It was difficult, to remember the awful things,” she says. “But it allowed me to reconcile in my heart.”

The events helped her realise that reconciliation has to take place not just at a personal level, but a societal level – and it was the Walk for Reconciliation which demonstrated reconciliation’s positive societal impact.

“It was a monumental moment of support for the Aboriginal community,” she says. “Seeing people walking hand-in-hand in the rain is a moment I will never forget.”

After Reconciliation Week’s success, Howard partnered with several Vancouver community centres to share her residential school experience. Over several months, she was involved in teaching participants 10 reconciliation songs and created a button blanket project, which were shared – with great success—on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2014.

“The reconciliation process is really important,” says Howard. “It’s painful to share our stories, but absolutely important in order to feel at home.”

For more information:

Mark Winston – Former Academic Director, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Fellow, Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue

Mark Winston believes that building relationships is the first piece in creating a reconciled world. This philosophy guided the workshop series held at SFU’s Centre for Dialogue with Reconciliation Canada, for Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation.

From January to March 2014, SFU held five different events to explore reconciliation and the real actions participants could take to promote it in their own communities.

For Winston, the SFU Reconciliation Dialogue Workshop, which had students exploring the idea of reconciliation, was particularly successful. Over two days, students, faculty and staff from SFU explored reconciliation within the university context.

The students generated many exciting ideas, such as a day of indigenization – in which every course has some Indigenous component—as well as more exposure to First Nation’s culture for students.

A similar workshop involved a number of Vancouver school districts, and saw over 150 high school students, their teachers and administrators participate. In small groups, they learned more about Indigenous peoples and their history and discussed projects to initiate in their own high school. Other events included a poetry event in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library and a workshop on pluralism and reconciliation between various groups in Canadian society who had experienced injustices.

SFU presented Chief Robert Joseph with the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue for his work on promoting reconciliation in Canada. “Chief Robert Joseph’s honesty and humanity set the workshop’s tone,” says Winston. “We wanted to honor his contributions, but also to create a platform where the ideas of reconciliation could be further explored.”

Winston feels that the model of small diverse groups exploring reconciliation together was critical to the workshop’s success, because participants were able to learn from each other’s experiences in a comfortable, safe environment.

“The workshops allow participants to build relationships and understand which general principals of reconciliation might apply across the board, and across Canadian society,” says Winston.

Winston believes Canadians genuinely want to understand Indigenous history and reconcile past mistakes – and that it’s important to take the time to do so.

For Winston, reconciliation is all about people. “To me, reconciliation means understanding and listening. It means doing whatever we can to learn from injustices and correct them.”

“You can’t do a one hour event to create reconciliation; you have to take the time to reflect,” he says. “For students, who are figuring out their impact on society, it is critical to reflect, listen and explore reconciliation.”

For more information on the SFU Dialogue events with Reconciliation Canada:

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