The congregation at St. Thomas Anglican Church in Millbrook is one of the 21 stops along the journey of a non-denominational group of roughly 50 registered walkers who are conducting a three week pilgrimage in support of Indigenous Rights from April 23rd to May 14th.
The Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights proceeds along a 600 km route from Kitchener to Ottawa in support of the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Comprised mostly of Christians from a variety of faith traditions, the participants are seeking to make right their relationships with Indigenous host peoples in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. They are coming to terms with the oppression and suppression of Indigenous peoples during part of the colonial Canadian history, including the Indian Residential School (IRS) system. Many have attended Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national events and have heard firsthand the stories of IRS survivors and are using this pilgrimage as a way to engage in a mutual quest for healing. After much soul-searching, they have concluded that they need to seek justice so that Settlers and Indigenous peoples may live in peaceful and respectful relationships.
With final registration totalling 50, the group expects to have at least 30 walkers at all times. Participants range in age from 9 months to 87 years old, with the most distant walkers coming from British Columbia and the State of Virginia.
The group hopes to welcome as many walkers as possible, so unregistered walkers are invited to join in for a section of the journey, even if it’s just for a few hours or a day. Organizers have lined up food and accommodation for registered participants, including a pot luck dinner last Monday hosted by the St. Thomas Anglican congregation in Millbrook. During their journey, the group will host conversation circles along their route where interested participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and hear respectful responses, which organizers believe will form the first steps in a healing of the nations.
Recognizing that theirs is both a spiritual and a political endeavour, the hope to bring pressure on the Canadian government the full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) when they end their pilgrimage in Ottawa. They are not so naive as to believe this will ensure a harmonious relationship between all Canadians, but believe the implementation of this Declaration will represent a first step towards that end. For more information about this organization, visit http://pfir.ca. KG