Gregor Robertson proposes Indigenous names for several landmarks
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
Tens of thousands of people joined the 2017 Vancouver Walk for Reconciliation on September 24.
The weather was clear and sunny, setting the stage for the march. Starting at Queen Elizabeth Plaza on the corner of West Georgia and Cambie Street, the opening remarks set the tone for the rest of the day. Speakers talked about the horrors of residential schools and their impact on Indigenous people. Speakers also spoke of honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women. They also talked about how it is up to the government, religious groups involved, and Indigenous people to right the wrongs of the past and present.
“Namwayut,” or “we are all one,” was a phrase put to action as people from all backgrounds joined the walk down the Georgia Viaduct to Strathcona Park. There were individuals who brought families and friends with them to march, along with partners and other groups such as VanCity Credit Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Rebecca Hope, a UBC student who attended the march, said in an interview with the Other Press that she marched to “acknowledge the hurt that’s been done [to residential school victims and their families] and move forward.”
After the two-kilometre walk, there was an expo at Strathcona Park where performances and speeches carried out on the main stage while people could walk around from booth to booth. There were cultural and children’s activities, along with artisan markets and community booths.
Mayor Gregor Robertson took to the stage to announce that the City of Vancouver will hang the flags of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh in the city hall council chamber “as a formal recognition that we are on unceded lands and that their flags belong in our chamber.” He also proposed to name the Queen Elizabeth Plaza and Vancouver Art Gallery plaza in honour of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh people. There would be indigenous art presented at the gallery’s plaza as well.
Following Robertson’s announcement, Sawagi Taiko performers combined dance, song, and drums before Chief Robert Joseph gave a speech thanking everyone for participating in the events.
Joseph, a Gwawaenuk elder, is the founder of the Reconciliation Walk and a former residential school student. He discussed the importance of everyone coming together “to think about and reflect on our past. And remembering some of the really difficult shortcomings we have had as a country and as a nation. I am inspired by the idea that eight out of ten Canadians want to reconcile with aboriginal people.”
The expo closed with Emmanuel Jal getting everyone up to dance and participate in the events.
Joseph’s granddaughter, Stephanie, said in an interview with the Other Press that the march was a powerful experience.
“It’s quite liberating. There’s a lot of words for how it feels. I’ve always known about residential schools and I never thought I’d see the day where we’d march in unison and acknowledge these things but also acknowledge our differences and love each other the same,” she said. “It’s powerful and empowering.”