For many Canadians, Canada Day was a day of reflection and not just a day of celebration.
Canada’s strained relationship with Indigenous peoples was at the forefront of many people’s minds instead of celebrating Canada Day.
The sense of distress led to taking action in Ridgetown. The stories about the remains of hundreds of children being found around former residential schools in Western Canada bothered some of the Naahi Ridge Elementary school teachers.
According to Lisa Natvik, a teacher at Naahi Ridge, the Healing Walk held on Canada Day was a chance for people in the area to show their solidarity with Indigenous communities who have been affected by residential schools. She added it also gave people a chance to mourn the children found in various unmarked graves around Canada.
“We wanted to give an opportunity to reflect, learn and listen,” said Natvik.
Natvik, a kindergarten teacher, is tasked with an extremely important job as most of her students will become classmates of children from the reserve in grade one. She said she tries to educate her students and tries to establish relationships early on.
“Educating our students is key,” said Navtik. “Kids from an early age are capable of empathy and a sense of right and wrong. They need to have the opportunity to hear what has happened and how things are changing, especially since they will be instrumental in creating change. They need to form their own opinions and share their thoughts with each other.”
Natvik said she and her teaching partner questioned the students on what they think about what happened in residential schools and how they feel about it. She also added that they celebrate National Indigenous Month/Day, Pride Month, Black History Month and Women’s History month and various awareness days.
“These ongoing discoveries were known to the residential school survivors, but now we know it as well,” said Navtik. “It is our responsibility to teach this truth - Canada’s true history.”
The walk, held at the T.R.E.E.S. Memorial Trail, was a success as more than 100 people dressed in orange came out to show their support. Natvik said a significant number of individuals came to support residential school survivors and families, both from Ridgetown and Eelnaapéewii Lahkéewiit.
“They wanted to be a part of this,” said Navtik. “They absolutely wanted to show their solidarity. So many people are just in a state of grief. I’m thrilled that people wanted to come out to learn.”
Natvik said this Canada Day felt different, adding she got a greater feeling of connectedness than she ever had on any other Canada Day.
“I got to feel like we were doing something way more important than shooting off fireworks. I got to feel a part of something, and I’d like to think it was helping to join our communities out here in this rural environment. I know the road to Truth and Reconciliation is long, but today I felt like it was the start of repairing relationships.”
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News