Walkers from the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights took a brief pause in Perth on May 9 to spend the evening with high-profile speakers the Right Honourable James Bartleman and NDP MP Romeo Saganash.
The walkers, part of Churches for Indigenous Rights, are travelling 600 kilometres from Kitchener to Ottawa by foot to raise awareness of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2017. They were greeted by hosts at St. Paul’s United Church, who organized the event together with the Lanark County Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation.
Mireille LaPointe, of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, welcomed the walkers to the traditional territory of the Algonquin and expressed gratitude that they are taking up what is an age-old tradition in the area, of walking from community to community carrying messages. The Right Honourable James Bartleman, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, emphasized the importance of reconciliation in light of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations this year.
The walk is also in support of Saganash’s private member’s Bill C-262, a bill which would ensure that Canadian laws align with the UNDRIP. Saganash spoke of how, after 10 years in an Indian Residential School, “I set out to reconcile with the people who put me away for 10 years… I can tell you, it’s a tremendous task.”
He finished his talk with a challenge: “if you believe in reconciliation, what are you doing about it?”