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Hundreds march in Montreal on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

An orange tide flowed through the streets of Montreal on Saturday afternoon as part of a march to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The marchers, most wearing orange shirts, gathered to highlight the struggles and rights of Indigenous people and honour the memory of residential school victims.

The sound of drums rang out during the march, and signs reading `Every child matters' waved above the crowd.

Hundreds of people gathered at the foot of Mount Royal in the early afternoon and marched to Place du Canada in downtown Montreal.

Before taking to the streets, residential school survivors addressed the crowd, as did activist and artist Ellen Gabriel. Inuk singer Beatrice Deer also performed a tribute to the children who lost their lives in residential schools and those who survived them.

"We refuse to remain broken. We refuse to remain silent," she proclaimed before performing a song in Inuktitut.

"I hope the general public will understand that we're here to talk about a horrible period in Canadian history (...) the way Canada treated Indigenous people. It's a dark period we've been through, and if we don't learn from our past, we'll repeat it," said Ann Deer, board member of Resilience Montreal, which organized the march with the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

A young girl takes part in an event prior to a march on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Montreal, Saturday, September 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

"We want this day to be a day of emancipation; we want this day to be a day of inspiration to change things. That's what I'm trying to do, and if I can do it, you can all do it", said Na'kuset, Executive Director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.

She lamented the fact that Francois Legault's government does not recognize systemic racism, while the consequences of residential schools are still being felt today.

"There's a lot of pain and trauma that was inflicted, and we live with that every day, and that doesn't change because the government doesn't change either," said Na'kuset, saying that Truth and Reconciliation Day shouldn't be just one day. She also argued that the history of residential schools and Indigenous peoples is lacking in history textbooks.

People take part in a march on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Montreal, Saturday, September 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

"There are a lot of sad events related to Indigenous peoples, especially the discovery of unmarked graves (near) residential schools. Everyone should know about that," argued march participant Yvette Mollen.

"There are a lot of people who came, but there are many others who aren't here."

She also pointed out that Saturday's walk was part of a healing process for some people.

"For a lot of people, it's about healing, I'd say. To say to themselves: yes, we're here, then we're going to be here, and we're going to be here for a very long time,'" she explained.

People take part in a march on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Montreal, Saturday, September 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement Saturday morning that reconciliation is the responsibility of "each and every one of us."

"Today, as we mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, we confront the lasting impacts of the residential school system for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in Canada. We come together to remember the children who were stolen from their communities, and those whose lives were stolen from them at these so-called schools,"  wrote the Prime Minister.

"We honour the Survivors, many of whom suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. We listen to their truths, and we reiterate our commitment to building a better future for Indigenous Peoples and for everyone in Canada."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson, right, hold onto a grave marker on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in La Ronge, Sask., on Saturday, September 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

Quebec Premier Francois Legault wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter: "On this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, let us remember their stories. We all have a duty to know and understand each other better."

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante invited citizens to "listen to our fellow Indigenous people and reflect on their historical contribution" on this day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 30, 2023. Top Stories

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