Fort Langley walk to residential school commemorates Truth and Reconciliation report

Reconciliation walk from Fort Langley a ‘little action’ in hope of making a difference

The first leg 2019 Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation started from various Fort Langley Churches to the Kwantlen First Nations Longhouse, where they were greeted by Kwantlen elders. (Ian Funk photo)

By Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance Times

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More than 100 people walked in the spirit of reconciliation in Fort Langley.

It was the fourth anniversary of the release of the findings of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The report unveiled abuses and devastating consequences of the residential school system on Canada’s indigenous children and families.

Fort Langley’s Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation has been held every year since then to commemorate the report, said Langley Mennonite Fellowship pastor Ian Funk, one of the walk’s organizers. “We hope little actions like this make a difference.”

The hundred or so walkers who participated at the start of this year’s walk gathered at various Fort Langley churches on Friday, May 31.

They then walked to the Kwantlen First Nation’s Longhouse, said Funk, where they were “generously welcomed with drumming and singing by Indigenous elders.”

Among the Indigenous greeters were Kwantlen Hereditary Chief Marilyn Gabriel, her husband Kevin Kelly and son Michael Kelly-Gabriel.

“The walkers then ate a delicious salmon meal and heard stories from the director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre, Joseph A. Dandurand,” Funk reported.

The walk resumed on its second leg on Saturday morning, 19 kilometres down the Trans Canada Trail towards Mission.

It was, Funk explained, “a symbolic walk of solidarity with residential school survivors, many of whom experienced abuse and tremendous loss when they were taken from their families and lands to go to school.”

The walk concluded on Sunday, June 2, the fourth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

More than 50 walkers participated in this leg of the journey, which ended at the former St. Mary’s Residential School, where they were led on a tour by Sto:lo Nation Historian and Cultural Advisor Sonny McHalsie.

The tour included a history of the residential school, and was followed by an experiential KAIROS blanket exercise led by Cheam First Nation elder Patti Victor.

“The weekend’s events closed with a delicious meal, giving space for Indigenous and settlers to learn more about each other,” said Funk.

“We were pleased by the turnout, the response, and the learning that happened,” he said. “There is also the hope that we can continue building some of the relationships gained by the events of the weekend.”

He said there are plans to walk again next year.

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The second leg of the Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation followed the Trans Canada Trail 19 km from Fort Langley towards Mission. (Deborah DeJong photo)

Final destination of the 2019 Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation was St. Mary’s School Church, at the site of the former residential school in Mission. (Deborah DeJong photo)

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