It’s early on Sunday, September 25th, 2016. The sky is a deep black, and a cool breeze carries the ocean spray and mist across the sand and driftwood. We are at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. 

Several figures are gathered beneath a tent, pinning blankets with woven pouches and banknotes. A few metres towards the water, fire-keepers are making their final preparations. 

This is a significant morning. This is the morning of Igniting Reconciliation: Lighting the Sacred Fire. This ceremony, a traditional sunrise sacred fire ceremony, marks the beginning of Reconciliation Canada’s activities planned for 2017. This is a crucial year in the history of this country: 2017 marks 150 years since Canadian confederation. This coming year provides us with a unique opportunity for reflection and the chance to build new relationships that contribute to our collective well-being. The sacred fire will serve as a beacon of light to guide all people in Canada through the activities that are to be held throughout 2017. It is a way to mark the significance of the coming year and to ensure it begins with the best attitudes and intentions.

Shortly before sunrise, a crowd begins to gather. These individuals come from diverse backgrounds, and include Elders, Survivors and spiritual leaders, as well as representatives from Indigenous, youth, multicultural and multi-faith communities and organizations. Those gathered have accepted the vital responsibility of bearing witness to the ceremony, and carrying the messages received into their wider community. 

At 6:30am, the fire-keepers call the crowd together and the ceremony begins. 

The smoke from the fire gently surrounds us. Slowly, the sky turns to a cool, calm silver. The sun has risen and the ceremony is complete. The crowd begins to disperse, smiling and reflecting on the teachings of the ceremony. The weight of responsibility of acting as a witness is lightened by the support silently offered by those gathered.

Following the ceremony, those gathered made their way to the Chief Joe Mathias Centre for a shared meal.

As the crowd thins, the Reconciliation Canada team takes down the tent, folds the chairs and tables, and leaves the beach. Although no trace of the ceremony remains, the important messages and teachings stir us, and will remain with us throughout 2017. There is much work to be done, but this sacred fire will guide us through the activities of the coming year.

We express our deepest appreciation to the Coast Salish peoples for their generosity and leadership in hosting this ceremony, and we extend our gratitude to all those who made this ceremony possible. 


Igniting Reconciliation: Lighting the Sacred Fire was a Canada 150 Countdown Activation and part of the two-year initiative, Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with the Government of Canada in this area of national significance. 


Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy,
a Canada 150 Signature Project, is funded in part by the Government of Canada

Réconciliation en action : une stratégie d’engagement nationale
est un projet de premier plan de Canada 150. Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.

Canada150


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Learn more about Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy here.


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