Drum songs pierced through the drone of downtown Edmonton traffic on July 11 as a convoy of 100 people, including members of All Saints’ Cathedral Social Justice Committee, walked arm-in-arm, carrying banners and waving flags paraded down Jasper Avenue from Canada Place to the Alberta Legislature.
The Common Ground reconciliation walk began with a pipe ceremony in the morning and was organized by Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centres, the Christian Reformed Church and the Edmonton Native Healing Centre to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closure of the Edmonton Indian Residential School near St. Albert.
Jesse Edgington, a justice consultant with the Northern Alberta Diaconal Conference of the Christian Reformed Church, encouraged faith communities to be “active participants in reconciliation events.” He shared how he had been motivated by the TRC Calls to Action and inspired by reconciliation walks in major centers across Canada.
“Reconciliation and restoration are verbs,” said the Ven. Travis Enright, Archdeacon for Indigenous Ministries and rector of St. Faith Anglican Church. “It is important for the Christian community to find ways to be restorative. We share this Common Ground and we have to acknowledge how we got it. We are all treaty people and healing the memories of residential schools is an issue concerning all of us.”
Enright participated in the walk for “anyone who has had their basic human dignity taken from them,” including his recently deceased mother Donna Enright who had been a strong advocate for reconciliation and healing having survived Gordon’s School at Punnichy, SK, the last Indian Residential School to close in Canada.
“We’re not only about church on Sunday,” said Enright. “As a faith body and followers of Jesus Christ, we have to believe we have the power to help the most vulnerable populations off the streets and give children a chance to achieve their dreams.”
“Together we walk in the spirit of reconciliation toward unity and common ground,” said Michelle Nieviadomy, assistant director of the Edmonton Native Healing Centre and Oskapewis for Inner City Pastoral Ministry (ICPM).
“We get to a place of healing by walking the red road – the beautiful road we walked today – by reaching out to others in a fair and equitable way,” said Brad Cardinal of Poundmaker’s Lodge addressing the crowd at the legislature. “Let’s continue this, year after year. Let’s continue walking on common ground for a healthier place.”