The streets of downtown Duncan were awash in orange on the morning of Sept. 30 as between 6,000 and 7,000 marchers participated in the local Every Child Matters event.
Friday was the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which is set aside to be a day to recognize the horrors of Canada’s residential schools and to honour the lost children and survivors, and thousands of people in the Cowichan Valley answered the call to participate in the march and the day’s activities to show their support.
Hundreds of students from the region’s many private schools were also bussed in to attend the march.
The marchers, with most wearing orange Every Child Matters shirts, far outnumbered the approximately 2,000 who participated last year, and the first participants were on Ingram Street before the back of the march even left the Si’em Lelum soccer fields on River Road several blocks away where it began.
The marchers joined thousands more across the country who also participated in local events and activities on Sept. 30 to commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools.
Sean Quimby, who took part in the march in Duncan, said he wore an orange shirt and marched because he felt it was important to him to pay his respects to local Indigenous groups, and those across Canada, in light of their treatment by the authorities over many decades.
“It’s hard to believe so many were in this march, and yet there are so many issues around First Nations in Canada that still need to be dealt with,” Quimby said.
“There is just not enough being done and that has to happen. Individuals know this, as can be seen by this crowd, but now governments have to do their part.”
Joe Lyons, an instructor from Brentwood College who joined the march along with approximately 500 students from the school, said he came because he felt it was important to show his support for First Nations and to listen to what they have to say.
“More needs to be done and we think we should consider financial reparations for First Nations,” Lyons said.
“A lot of First Nation communities across Canada don’t have clean drinking water and this needs to be addressed. We’re making some steps in the right direction, but we have to make up for hundreds years of mistreatment.”
Marcher Bob Hedley said he was more than happy to show his support for First Nations by taking part in the march.
He said he’s also pleased to see so many people turn out to show their support as well.
“I think a lot is being done to address First Nations’ issues in Canada, but there needs to be a lot more education about these issues for the public. The nation’s legislature needs to begin facing reality.”
Laura Sabau said this was the first time she participated in an Every Child Matters march, and she was drawn to it to show her support and to listen to the First Nations’ prayers and drums.
“I like what I see happening here and I’ll definitely come again next year,” she said.
Joanne Circle said she liked being in such a large crowd all dedicated to truth and reconciliation with First Nations.
“We’re like drops of water in a river all flowing together,” she said.
“I don’t think about what has been done and what still needs to be done as long as everyone keeps working at it.”