Candle walk vigil being held to honour Indigenous children

September 16, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The recent discoveries of unmarked graves, exceeding 1,600, at former residential schools, has led many Canadians to reflect back on the country’s dark past with Indigenous people.

With public pressure pushing reconciliation to the forefront of the federal government’s priorities, for the first time in Canada, September 30 is being marked as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

On that same day, from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the Dufferin County Cultural Resource Circle (DCCRC) is holding a candle walk vigil at the Alder Arena, from its entrance to the medicine garden where an Indigenous speaker will share the impact of the residential school system. The remarks will be followed by a few minutes of silence and a closing prayer.

For the DCCRC founder, Debbie Sipkema, the event is all about commemorating the Indigenous children who never made it home.

“It’s about remembering children that were in school and murdered there, and the parents who never knew what happened to their children,” she said. “As a parent, for me, it’s that whole trauma of ‘where did my kid go? What happened to my kid?’”

Sipkema said regardless of nationality, all children are equal and deserve respect, so it’s heartbreaking to see the way they were mistreated in Canada historically.

“They all had dreams, they all had ambitions, they all had a purpose that they were brought here for, and then to be wiped out like that, or to have the horrible atrocities that happened to them… it’s mind blowing, absolutely mind blowing,” Sipkema remarked.

She told the Citizen that she’s hoping the event will help parents empathize with the tragedies that Indigenous communities have endured.

“I hope people hold tighter to their kids, and come and identify that these were just simply families with children, who never got to come home and nobody ever knew what happened to them,” said Sipkema.

“The most important thing we need to remember and need to focus on is how would we feel if our son, our daughter, our grandchild, our niece or nephew, if they just disappeared? And nobody told you what happened to them?”

Sipkema said she’s encouraging everyone to attend the event who wants to learn about and honour the children lost at Canada’s residential school.

“If you’ve heard about it, but you don’t understand what’s been going on, come and take the time to learn,” she said. “This is an opportunity for education, which is what the DCCRC is all about.”

Those who attend the candle walk vigil must socially distance and wear masks. Attendees are also asked to bring a white candle to walk with and wear orange, as it’s a colour used to commemorate residential school victims and Sept. 30 is Orange Shirt Day as well.

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