It is 9am on Sunday, May 31, 2015, and a crowd has gathered at the Sheraton Wall Centre Courtyard in downtown Vancouver. More than 3000km away, the historic Walk for Reconciliation has just begun its journey from École secondaire de l’Île in Gatineau towards downtown Ottawa. The crowd in Vancouver watches in anticipation as a sacred fire is lit, unifying Canadians coast-to-coast-to-coast in support of Indian Residential Schools survivors in their ongoing journeys towards healing and reconciliation.
This was the beginning of the day-long event, Reconciliation Matters: a series of special observations organized to coincide with the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United Church clergy worked in collaboration with Reconciliation Canada to host these events and to bring together Canadians from many traditions and backgrounds.
As the sacred fire burned in the Sheraton Wall Centre Courtyard, the events progressed over the street for an ecumenical service at St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church. The service focussed on confession and acknowledgment of the harms inflicted through the Indian Residential School system.
Following the service, the congregations were greeted by a community street fair in the Sheraton Wall Centre Courtyard surrounding the sacred fire. The street fair featured live music from Sister Says, a soulful genre-bending pop duo with Haida and Tsimshian roots, Indigenous artisans, and educational booths and displays from local community and cultural organizations.
Elder Ruth Adams from Tsawwassen First Nation offered a Coast Salish Welcome to the territory, and was followed by guest speakers Doug White, Director, Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation at Vancouver Island University and former Chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation, and City of Vancouver Deputy Mayor Raymond Louie. Both White and Louie reiterated the need for all Canadians to contribute meaningful action towards reconciliation.
The day culminated with the Blanket Exercise; an interactive activity that encourages participants to rethink the timeline of Canadian history through the lenses of colonialism, treaty-making and resistance. The exercise highlights significant events and demonstrates the impact of colonialism on individuals, families, and cultures.
Participants rounded off the day with an Ecumenical Prayer Service held at First Baptist Church, once again providing an opportunity for Canadians from all walks of life to come together and to learn about their role in reconciliation.
Reconciliation Canada is proud to collaborate with Vancouver’s Ecumenical community to mark the significance of the closing of the TRC. We are truly grateful for the generosity of all of the partners and organizations that made this possible.