CANADA: Peaceful protest to raise awareness of residential schools in front of northern Ontario church


“This is not an attack on an individual church. We want it to go higher, ”says one of the protesters

The pouring rain did not stop a small group of protesters from gathering outside St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Padua on Sunday morning to raise awareness about residential schools and the lasting impact churches have left on indigenous peoples.

Krysta Madden-Broughton, 19, a member of the Temagami First Nation, was the organizer of the protest.

Since hearing of the 215 children whose remains were found at the old Kamloops, B.C., residential school, Madden-Broughton has said she has been wondering what she can do to help the community.

She herself went to a Catholic school. Now that she knows what happened at the residential schools, she feels like she has betrayed her culture, she said.

“I want to hold individuals accountable for what happened to the children in residential schools. And I want to show residential school survivors and the children who were murdered that we recognize their stories and the pain they endured, ”she said. “As a community, we will continue to fight for justice so that it never happens to another family. “

SEE RELATED: “We were innocent children … forcibly separated from our homes”

At least a dozen people attended the demonstration. Some drivers honked their horns to support the protesters as they walked up and down the streets. Every now and then they would stop and share their thoughts and feelings with each other.

Cindy Fernandez said she attended the protest to raise awareness of Indigenous children who died in residential schools and to seek answers.

“We want the healing to begin, and you can’t do it without recognition,” she said. “This is not an attack on an individual church. We want it to go higher. We hope that these priests will contact their superiors and ask them for answers. We’re actually looking for their support, not trying to hinder them. “

A person left tobacco in front of the church as an offering and to greet the missing children. The demonstrators also made smudges.

Sarah McKeachnie, who participated with her little one Marcel Gravel, seven, brought three pairs of shoes and placed them near the cathedral stairs.

“We are here to protest because we want to know why the children were buried and killed,” Gravel said.

McKeachnie said his son is mixed race and it is important for him to know that there were children, some younger than him, who have gone missing or died.

“We want responsibility. They have the power to talk to superiors, get those files and get the answers, ”she said. “That’s what we want: recognition and responses.

SEE RELATED: Chief warns of cautious approach to residential school burial site investigation

SEE RELATED: People have to learn, really understand the “real history” of Canada

Two policemen, who parked nearby, got out of their cars and watched protesters start to sing as parishioners left the church after the first mass.

Protesters lined up in front of the church, holding up hand-made signs and chanting: “No pride in the genocide”, “They were children, we want answers”, “Where are the children buried?”

Before the second mass, one of the parishioners, Gordon King, who was on his way to the church, stopped to express his support for the group and thank them for drawing attention to the “crimes that happened. in the past “.

“What happened in the past affects everything that happens today,” King said in an interview. “It wasn’t just the people in these schools that were damaged, all of Canada was damaged. Until we recognize this, reconcile and find ways to rebuild the society that recognizes indigenous peoples as the founding people, we will not be able to move forward.

Matachewan First Nation member Lillian Langlais said the Catholic Church should pay to identify and investigate burial sites on former residential school grounds, not the government.

“It shouldn’t be the taxpayers paying for this. It should be the church, ”she said.

Madden-Broughton said they plan to hold a peaceful protest outside a new church every Sunday.

“I’ll ride with how it goes. Hope it goes well, I’m just here to protest peacefully. I don’t want there to be verbal or physical abuse, ”she said. “I hope that as a community we can come together and help those who are suffering during this time.”

A 24-hour residential school crisis line, established to provide support to former students and their families, is available at 1-866-925-4419.

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