Traffic along a section of the Pat Bay Highway came to a halt for an hour Monday (Aug. 2) morning as a group of Indigenous people and their allies gathered for a peaceful demonstration.
More than 100 people marched from the Tsawout First Nation band office to the Mount Newton Crossroad intersection to carve out just a small amount of time and space to honour the Indigenous children who never survived the residential school system.
|Jim Elliott leads more than 100 people as they occupy a section of the Pat Bay Highway Aug. 2 to honour the lives of lost Indigenous children. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)|
“Finally the voice of the children, the lost ones, have brought their stories forward,” Jim Elliott said speaking to the gathered group. Indigenous people have known about the atrocities that occurred in residential and day schools for close to two centuries and have fought to have their experiences believed, Elliott said, but now the truth is undeniable.
“Canada, you have destroyed so many lives,” he said.
More than 1,000 unmarked graves have been found at former residential school sites so far, but only a few of the 139 have been searched. Over 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend the church-run, government funded schools, where experiences of physical, verbal and sexual abuse were common.
“Imagine a non-Native child being dragged across the floor by their hair every day,” Elliott said.
|Patrick Leon leads a group of drummers in a song called The Heart Beat. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)|
Between speeches, a group of drummers performed a number of songs, honouring the children who died at the hands of residential schools, those who survived and carry their trauma, and those who are stuck in today’s foster care system.
Despite the pain and trauma they carry, the story of Indigenous people is one of resilience, speaker Patrick Leon said.
“That’s who we are as Native people – we never give up,” he said. Leon closed the gathering with a song called The Heart Beat and thanked everyone for coming.
“Now we’ve all got to stand up and unite,” he said.
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