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Saint John marks Truth and Reconciliation Day with healing walk

A large crowd marches through the Great Canadian Trail at Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B. (CTV/Avery MacRae) A large crowd marches through the Great Canadian Trail at Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B. (CTV/Avery MacRae)

Over 200 residents, the majority wearing orange, made their way out to Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B., for a healing walk to mark the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Observed annually on Sept. 30, the day honours and remembers Indigenous people who were impacted by the residential school system that operated in Canada for over a century. The schools were known for harsh living conditions and both physical and sexual abuse, with many children never making it home.

“I lived in a world where this was not something you were bragging about,” says David Smith of First Nations Storytellers. “I had short hair at the time and wasn’t wearing these leather jackets and stuff, I was a different guy trying to live in that world.”

“Maybe I’ll be doing this interview in 20 years in my own language and these are the things I hope for.”

Smith began First Nations Storytellers just over a year ago, providing authentic Indigenous experiences in the Greater Saint John area. He says he was surprised by the amount of interest upon starting.

“They were hungry for it,” Smith says of residents looking to learn more about his culture. “Especially over COVID, people were sitting in front of their TV watching the world go by and they started listening.”

Smith says he is often asked by residents what they can do to help on the path of reconciliation for Indigenous communities. He says there is no right answer, but actions are important.

“It’s not just words,” says Smith. “The system needs to change as we can’t thrive in this environment as a people.”

Smith acknowledges while he is happy to see the progress made in recent years towards reconciling for the past, there is still a long way to go.

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