The work toward reconciliation continues, this time with four local churches showing their commitment to continue the journey.
Langley residents are invited to walk from the Fort Langley historic site to the nearest residential school site — St. Mary’s in Mission.
“Walking in the Spirit of Reconciliation” will take place over four days, starting Wednesday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. from the Fort Langley Historic Site TransCanada Trail at 26805 River Rd.
The second day of walking begins on June 2 at 9:30 a.m., taking walkers along the TransCanada Trail to Douglas Taylor Park in Abbotsford.
Then on June 3, starting at Douglas Taylor Park the walk continues to the Matsqui Trail picnic area, at the Mission Bridge. On the last day of the journey, walkers will tour the site of the St. Mary’s Residential School at 9:30 a.m. where a ‘doctrine of discovery’ will take place. This will be followed by lunch on the site.
Former St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church pastor Paul Guiton came up with the idea to have these walks, and to have them end at the site of the former residential school.
“Some Christian denominations were involved in running residential schools. There was damage done to Aboriginal children, their parents and generations to come. To sum it up, and in my opinion, we screwed up big time,” said Guiton.
“We can’t fix that, but we can be part of the process of reconciliation. The churches involved have a responsibility to provide leadership in reconciliation. There is a reaching out that needs to take place, we need to rebuild damaged relationships.”
Guition sits on the grassroots committee, started by Cecelia Reekie, former trustee and now cultural presenter for the Aboriginal program in Langley School District. She put together the successful “Journey Towards Reconciliation” weekend last March at Yorkson Creek Middle School.
The lead speaker at that event was Wab Kinew, author of the bestselling memoir: The Reason You Walk. He is now an elected politician in Manitoba.
Guiton and Reekie wanted to make sure that after that event, the work towards reconciliation wouldn’t just stop there.
“It seemed fitting with Wab’s book title “The Reason You Walk,” to have a walk. And it’s a Christian tradition that there has always been pilgrimages,” said Guiton.
This pilgrimage is “a sacred walk: an outward act of spiritual witness,” writes Bishop Mark MacDonald, the national Indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Guiton has the support of the Anglican Church. His hope is that many people will join in on this experience, walking as much or as little as they want, with Indigenous and non-indigenous people walking side by side.
The churches participating are the United Churches of Langley, Willoughby Christian Reform Church, the Langley Mennonite Church and St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church.
The walk coincides with anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that took place in Ottawa June 2, 2015. Reekie’s father took part in the commissions and Cecilia was part of the march to Quebec, along with Kwantlen First Nation residential school survivors and members.
Reekie is hoping the public embraces this walk and joins in, even if it is for a short portion of it.
St. Mary’s first opened in 1861 to “offer a more positive Christian influence to the local people of the Fraser Valley.” Aboriginal children were sent there until it was finally closed down in 1961.