Walking in the Spirit of Reconciliation
April 18, 2017
“The sacred walk is a distinctly Canadian and Indigenously flavoured act of political, spiritual and social witness.”
- Bishop Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, Anglican Church of Canada
A group of churches in Langley are working to find ways to carry out some of the Calls to Action by Churches, from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), published in 2015:
“We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement, in collaboration with Survivors and representatives of Aboriginal organizations...for:
- Community controlled healing and reconciliation projects.
- Community-controlled culture- and language-revitalization projects.
- Community-controlled education and relationship-building projects
When Rev. Paul Guiton, a retired priest living in Langley read the above words from Bishop Mark in the Anglican Journal, it seemed to suggest a perfect opportunity to respond to the TRC by creating an event that would witness both the Christian (pilgrimage) and Indigenous (Sacred Walk) traditions.
In this case, the Walk would be from the colonial bastion of Fort Langley to the site of the nearest Indian Residential School – St. Mary’s in Mission. Although St. Mary’s was actually operated under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church, the experience of residential school survivors, sadly, was not that much different among the different denominations who contracted for the schools with the Government of Canada.
The Walk retraces the steps of so many indigenous children, uprooted from their families and sent to a place that was unfamiliar in both culture and language.
With the help of Cecelia Reekie, a long-time activist in the cause of education and reconciliation, Guiton invited several local churches to sponsor the Walk and participate in the planning. The team comprises representatives from not only the Anglican Church, but also United Churches of Langley, Willoughby Christian Reformed Church and Langley Mennonite Fellowship, as well as an elder and survivor from the Kwantlen band. As Guiton is fond of saying, “having four different denominations working together on this is already a minor miracle of reconciliation!”
Last year’s walk drew about 65 people for the first leg, on a nasty, rainy June evening. “This year, we have had a little more time to organize, so we are hoping for an even better turnout,” says Guiton. “For example, thanks to a special grant from the Anglican Foundation, we have organized a bus to bring people from Vancouver, if they do not want to drive. We are also providing activities for children and youth, both for the opening ceremonies and during the walk itself.”
In order to accommodate folks of all ages and fitness levels, the organisers have made arrangements so that people may walk only as far as they feel able. It is also perfectly acceptable to walk on one of the days, if people are not able to commit to the whole walk. Each day, Shuttles will be available to ferry people back to the start point, from whatever point they reach in the journey.
The Walk will take place over three days, set to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of the TRC Calls to Action –
- Friday evening, June 2, 5 to 6pm. Gather at Fort Langley National Historic Site – children’s activities and catering available. 6:30pm Walk from Fort Langley to TransCanada Trailhead (River Road/88th Ave. east of 264th St.)
- Saturday, June 3 9am Re-start Walk at TransCanada Trailhead, ending at Matsqui Trail Picnic Area (Mission Bridge). Lunch will be provided along the way.
- Sunday, June 4th (Pentecost)2pm, Re-start Walk at Matsqui Trail Picnic Area, ending at the St. Mary’s site in Fraser River Heritage Park, Mission
More details about the itinerary will be available on the diocesan website and in church bulletins around the Diocese of New Westminster in the coming weeks.
- A photo of the 2016 Walk
- The Walk Planning Committee Left to right: Dennis de Groot, Pieter van der Leek (Willoughby Christian Reformed); Cecelia Reekie (Haisla, Langley Reconciliation); Hilde Seal (United Churches of Langley); Paul Guiton (Anglican, Langley Reconciliation), Sophia Ducey (United Churches of Langley) Not pictured: Josette Dandurand, (Kwantlen); Ian Funk (Langley Mennonite Fellowship) Meeting at Lelem Arts and Culture Cafe - an initiative of Seyem Kwantlen Business Group.