Why I’m walking the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights

I’ve been hanging around Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team for several years now, and gradually coming to a deeper understanding of what it means to walk with Indigenous communities. I’ve had the opportunity to hear from the elders and youth of Grassy Narrows First Nation about their decades-long struggle for a clean river. I’ve seen Haudenosaunee families take a stand for their traditional hunting rights in the face of racist opposition at Short Hills Provincial Park. I’ve gained a deep respect for Indigenous communities’ work to protect land and waters and to restore right relationships, and I’ve come to understand that all of us have a responsibility to participate in this work.

For me, the next step is to join Christian Peacemaker Teams and others on the Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights, a walk from Kitchener-Waterloo to Ottawa from April 23 to May 14. I will be walking from Peterborough to Ottawa from May 3 – 14. The pilgrimage will be stopping at churches and community centres along the way to foster conversations about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and its role as a framework for reconciliation. We will also be calling on the Canadian government to fulfill its promise to implement UNDRIP.

I am inviting my friends to join me in this commitment! There are many things we can do to help make right our relationships with Indigenous peoples in Canada at this time. To name a few:

  • Learn about UNDRIP and talk to your family, friends, or faith community. KAIROS and the Canadian Friends Service Committee have excellent resources.
  • Write to your Member of Parliament, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, to ask them to support Bill C-262, a private member’s bill presented by NDP MP Romeo Saganash that would legally bind the Government of Canada to implement UNDRIP.
  • Help to support the pilgrimage financially by donating at pfir.ca (please add a note that you are supporting my participation!).

You can also join me on the walk! The pilgrimage will be passing through Toronto on April 27, and I will be guiding the walk for the day. We will also be gathering in the evening at Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, 1038 Woodbine Ave.; all are welcome to come to a potluck dinner at 5:30 pm and a teach-in at 7 pm.

I am embarking on this pilgrimage with the intention of taking some time to reflect on my responsibilities as a settler in Canada. It seems right to do this while walking – moving at a natural pace, engaging my body as well as my mind. It seems even more right to do this in community, learning how to be together on a slow and sometimes challenging journey. I am hoping to spend much of this time unplugged. But on my return, I am hoping to share my reflections with my communities here, particularly my faith communities. So please reach out if you’d like to talk, or if you’d like me to come talk with your community. Mine is only one voice, and perhaps not the one that most needs to be heard, but I would like to walk together.