Garden River First Nation will be hosting its first Every Child Matters Walk in the community Friday in an effort to raise awareness of issues that continue to affect Indigenous Peoples and First Nation communities.
Chief Andy Rickard says his community has chosen not to celebrate Canada Day and will acknowledge July 1st in a different way in light of the discovery of potential unmarked burials in and around residential school sites across the country.
“We see all the celebrations around Canada Day, and many communities including ours have decided to do something in honour of our children,” Rickard said.
The leader of Garden River says the walk is also intended to acknowledge other social injustices including boil water advisories, missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples and Ontario’s fight to overturn court rulings during the ongoing Robinson-Huron Treaty annuities case.
“Those are long-standing historical grievances that the judge, in that particular case, has ruled in favour of the signatories to the Robinson-Huron Treaty — but yet, it’s being appealed by the provincial government,” said Rickard. “So, when you talk about reconciliation, when you talk about the theft of our lands, the theft of our children and everything that’s happening, it’s kind of a slap in the face to our people in the communities.”
Participants are encouraged to wear orange and bring flags and banners for the walk, which will begin at the Garden River Recreation Centre and end at the community centre with lunch afterwards.
Rickard says the walk is also open to all non-Indigenous people who want to participate.
“It is open to everybody,” he said. “We won’t turn anybody down, and I think it’s a time for everybody to come together, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, just to bring light to some of these things that are still continuing to happen in this country.”
The Every Child Matters Walk departs from the Garden River Recreation Centre (48 Syrette Lake Road) at 11 a.m. sharp. Participants are asked to assemble at the recreation centre by 10:30 a.m.
Lunch will be provided at the Garden River Community Centre (corner of Shingwauk Street and Highway 17B) after the walk. Shuttle service from the community centre back to the recreation centre will also be provided following lunch.
Highway 17B will be closed from Belleau Lake Road to Ballpark Road for the duration of the walk.