Hundreds turned out to Holland Park in Surrey Thursday (Sept. 30) for a Skookum Surrey event commemorating the country’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Michael Kelly-Gabriel, of the Kwantlen First Nation, noted how the crowd kept “growing and growing.”
“I just want to acknowledge all the people that have been here since the beginning and come out whenever these events are on and the new ones that are here today that have an open mind and open heart,” he said.
Kelly-Gabriel said if people do even one thing today, it’s to educate yourself and others.
“The elders here and the survivors, as I look around, they know that they’re not alone and that’s what we want. We want you to be a witness here today to take it into your heart, but also go home and share that with just one of your family (members) … so there’s one more person that knows about our history.”
He added people think residential schools and the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities is something of the past.
“Go home and educate yourself because it’s ongoing history. People think it’s gone, it’s in the past but there’s still generational trauma – I’ve suffered from generational trauma and we’re still healing from generational trauma.”
Megan Rosso, community communications coordinator, said Thursday was actually an “exciting” because in previous years Sept. 30, which is also Orange Shirt Day, “has been just our own gathering.”
She said she hopes those in attendance ”can take away a little bit more education and empathy and compassion for Indigenous issues.”
“I think people can really take it up for themselves to do a little bit of extra homework during this time to get to know the real colonized history of Canada, so that they understand why we’re out here commemorating the residential school survivors,” Rosso said.
But she added it’s not just about residential schools, “it’s about all of the colonial impacts that Indigenous people have suffered since colonization.”