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HomeNewsSmithers Friendship Centre launches war canoe to honour victims of residental schools

Smithers Friendship Centre launches war canoe to honour victims of residental schools

For its third year the Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre has launched its war canoe to honour the survivors and victims of the residential school system.

A group of people gathered at Lake Kathlyn rode the canoe and raised an Every Child Matters Flag.

Prior to the launch of the canoe drug and alcohol counselor with the Friendship Centre Mel Bazil spoke a few words on the significance of the event.

He said the canoe was purchased in 2005 for residential school survivors to take them on a journey in the ocean to transform pain into strength.

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“I believe it worked, we purchased the canoe so that we could work with our community like we are today and get our strengths back,” Bazil said.

He also said that cultural activities like a canoe launch were prohibited for some time and it could’ve disappeared but it is still around.

“When we consider people who couldn’t make it home, the residential school survivors who did make it home, then there were some who didn’t, we wanted to honour them by doing something that was prohibited in the past and now we’re showing we still have it, we still have this activity in our lives,” Bazil said.

He added that this event is not just for those who were victims of the residential school system but their families as well.

This event has been ongoing since before the government introduced the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation where it was known as Orange Shirt Day.

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Bazil also said it is finally time for conciliation between the government and Indigenous Peoples.

“It’s about time we’ve seen some conciliation from this government. A return to friendly relations I think is possible between the local settlers and the local indigenous peoples,” he said.

“The starting between community agencies, community groups coming to support us in this way and get to know us that’s conciliation and I’m thankful for that,” Bazil added.

According to Bazil, he is a third generation residential school survivor with his late grandmother and late grandfather attending Lejac Residential School.

The Friendship Centre has hosted events with resources about reconciliation and the residential school system from September 26 to September 29.

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