‘Ottawa’ Walkers end 600-kilometre ‘pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights’ in Ottawa
The walkers left Kitchener-Waterloo on April 23 and slept mostly on church floors along the way. They walked in snow and rain. On one day, they walked 37 kilometres.
On Saturday, more than 30 of the walkers, including Kandace Boos and her 11-month-old daughter Junia ended a 600-kilometre “pilgrimage for indigenous rights” at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street.
The trek, organized by the Mennonite Church of Canada and Christian Peacemaker Teams is an effort to “formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”
Among other things, the declaration recognizes the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, and their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education. It was adopted by the UN a decade ago with 144 states in favour. Four countries — Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. — voted against it.
Canada removed its objector status in 2016. But last month, First Nations leaders said implementation of the declaration is not being monitored across Canada.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 43rd call to action asks for federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the declaration as the framework for reconciliation. The 48th call to action asks for faith groups and interfaith social justice groups to “formally adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards” of the declaration.
The walk was a response to that call to action, said Colin Reimer of Boissevin, Man., who completed the entire trek. “It calls on churches to be involved. Throughout history, churches of all denominations were involved in cresting structures that created negative institutions like residential schools.”
Along the way, the walkers spoke in schools to church groups and to passersby. “I feel that we’ve raised awareness and started a dialogue,” said walker Kelly Bernardin-Dvorak of Winnipeg.
The rally that greeted the walkers in Ottawa was also in support of MP Romeo Saganash’s private member’s Bill C-262 to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The declaration sets the path of self-determination, NDP MP Niki Ashton, who represents Churchill-Keewatinook-Aski in Manitoba, told the rally. “We have the ability to stand up and say that we stand with indigenous peoples.”
Saganash, who represents the Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, had introduced a similar bill that was defeated on second reading in 2014.
C-262 is to get its second reading in September.
Saganash told the rally that indigenous people have been promised many things in Canada’s 150-year history.
“As long as our children continue to take their own lives, as long as women and girls continue to get murdered, as long as there is no safe drinking water, I can’t celebrate Canada 150,” he said. “This is about fundamental human rights.”