Eugene Arcand says it is time to see some true action and effort to right the wrongs stemming from Canada's residential schools.
"I don't mean to wreck this party, but it's time we put reconciliation aside. It's a cop out," Arcand said. "I'm not seeing it. I seek effort. I seek kindness from our allies and our family members and our agencies that work with us."
Arcand was speaking at the raising of the Survivors' Flag, which he was involved in designing, outside Saskatoon city hall on Monday. The event came in advance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30. About 50 people were in attendance.
Arcand said there are people and organizations in the city that receive revenue from both levels of the government to work with Indigenous people, but that he did not see them at the flag-raising event.
"Icing on the cake is not enough" he said, "I continue to see the same number of people on the streets. I see the same people getting incarcerated. I see the courthouse full."
Eugene Arcand, a member of the Saskatoon Survivors Circle, speaks at the raising of the Survivors' Flag at Saskatoon City Hall on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. Arcand is a Cree survivor of St. Michael's Indian Residential School and was involved in designing the Survivors' Flag. (CBC News)
Arcand, a survivor of St. Michael's Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, said he was asked to explain what the flag means but that there are times when the truth has to come out first.
"If I insulted anyone, that's too bad because I'm not apologizing anymore. The truth is what I just shared with you. That's how we feel. That's how we think — and we're wounded."
Shirley Isbister, president of Central Urban Métis Federation Inc., echoed Arcand's words and said, "We should have a much larger turnout than this in our community."
The Survivors' Flag, which honours the hundreds of children who never returned home from residential schools, was raised in front of city hall in Saskatoon on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. (CBC News)
Isbister said events like this mean so much to her because not only does the community come together to raise the flag but also to raise the pipe, have conversations, sit around and laugh.
She said that the day is a mixture of sadness and happiness — as her mother-in-law was in a residential school for 13 years, taken from Mistawasis First Nation — and she and her family still feel the effects of the intergenerational trauma.
People gathered in orange shirts at Saskatoon city hall Monday to honour residential school survivors and lost children. (Aishwarya Dudha/CBC)
Aly Bear, a Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-chief, said she was there to represent her grandmother, who is the last survivor of her family.
Bear said she wants to see more than just "symbolic gestures."
"We need to actually have places of prayer in urban centres," she said. "We see churches. We see mosques. But do we see sweat lodges?"
Moving forward, she said she wants to see events like these packed.
"We need more people. I understand people are busy, but you make time for what's important. And what's important is our healing and healing together, moving forward together in a good way."