A tide of orange circulated in the streets of Montreal on Saturday afternoon during a march for the International Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The marchers, most of them dressed in orange sweaters, gathered to highlight the struggles and rights of indigenous people, but also to honor the memory of the victims of residential schools.
The sound of drums could be heard during the march, and “Every child matters” could be read on signs held above the crowd.
Hundreds of people gathered early in the afternoon at the foot of Mount Royal, and then marched to Place du Canada, in the city’s downtown core.
Before heading into the streets, survivors of residential schools spoke to the crowd, as did activist and artist Ellen Gabriel. Inuk singer Beatrice Deer also offered a performance in tribute to the children who lost their lives in residential schools, and to the people who survived them.
“We refuse to stay broken, we refuse to stay silent,” she proclaimed, before performing a song in Inuktitut.
“I hope the general public understands that we are here to talk about a horrible period in Canadian history […] of how Canada has treated Indigenous people. It’s a dark time we’ve been through, and if we don’t learn our past, we’re going to repeat it,” said Ann Deer, member of the board of directors of Résilience Montréal, who organized the march with the Foyer for indigenous women of Montreal.
“We want this day to be one of emancipation, we want this day to be one of inspiration to change things. That’s what I’m trying to do, and if I can do it, you can all do it,” said Na’kuset, executive director of the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter.
She deplores that François Legault’s government does not recognize systemic racism, while the consequences of residential schools are still felt today.
“There is a lot of suffering and trauma that has been inflicted, and we live with that every day, and that doesn’t change because the government doesn’t change either,” Na’kuset said, saying that Day of truth and reconciliation does not have to be just one day. She also argued that the history of residential schools and indigenous peoples is not sufficiently present in history textbooks.
“There are many sad events related to Aboriginal people, especially the discovery of unmarked graves (near) residential schools […] everyone should know that, argued Yvette Mollen, a participant in the march. There are many people who came, but there are many others who are not there. »
She also stressed that Saturday’s march was part of a healing process for some people.
“For a lot of people, it’s self-care, I would say. To say to yourself: yes, we are here, then we are going to be there and we are going to stay there for a very long time,” she explained.
Nadia Bashalani participated in the march with her young son, who sat calmly in his stroller.
“I want to have recognition for the history we have […] and what is currently happening here in Canada,” she declared.
“I want my son to know it too, and for more and more people to recognize what happened, and what is still happening. I am not indigenous, I am the daughter of immigrants. So, I think it’s important that it continues the story,” she added.
Several politicians reacted to the Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday. Quebec Premier François Legault wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, let us remember their stories. We all have a duty to know each other better, to understand each other better.”
On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, let us remember their stories. We all have a duty to know each other better, to understand each other better. pic.twitter.com/ETkdWqaTaO
— François Legault (@francoislegault) September 30, 2023
The mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, invited citizens to “listen to our fellow Indigenous citizens and reflect on their historical contribution” on the occasion of this day.
“Together, we are moving forward on the path to reconciliation with heart and conviction,” she said, in a message published on X.
Together, we move forward on the path to reconciliation with heart and conviction. ????
Let us take advantage of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to listen to our fellow Indigenous citizens and reflect on their historical contribution. pic.twitter.com/wALZze4qa6
— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) September 30, 2023
“Let’s look each other in the eye, as equals, and tell each other our four truths. After that, we will finally be able to enter the path of reconciliation together. And we shouldn’t tell stories; the road is going to be long. If we all come together in Quebec, we will realize that we are 12 great people, strong and proud of their cultures who could achieve great things,” for her part wrote the member of Québec solidaire, Manon Massé, in a post on Facebook.