Painting a Brighter Future with the Walk for Reconciliation Art Project

By: Reconciliation Canada.

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On September 24, thousands of individuals will walk from downtown Vancouver, across the Georgia Viaduct and onwards to Strathcona Park. This crowd will be united through a vision – a new way forward for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians, where all children are able to reach their full potential.

The Walk for Reconciliation is an expression of this vision, and is part of a larger movement to educate all people in Canada on reconciliation.

“The only way that we are going to repair our system and really see reconciliation happen in Canada is if we do a good job at educating our young about our shared history,” says Debbie Douez.

Debbie joined the Reconciliation Canada team in April to manage the Reconciliation Art Project – a key component of the Walk for Reconciliation. The Reconciliation Art project is a simple activity intended to compliment classroom teachings on our collective history to children. Debbie hopes it will help children reflect on the concept of reconciliation and inspire them to envision a new way forward. The project asks children to go out into nature and collect a rock, a symbol of strength, resiliency and permanence, and to paint their vision of reconciliation on it’s surface.

Taking a creative and artistic approach to reconciliation was fuelled by Debbie’s belief that art has the power to help heal. She also believes that reconciliation can take root with our youth and help teach children the values of acceptance and equality.

“Canadians at large have not been well educated on the history of Indigenous people either through our education system or the media. As a result there is ignorance, stereotypes, misunderstandings, and racism across our country. Our education system is one of the important places where we can re-educate our children to ensure they grow up with the truth.” – Debbie Douez, Art Project Producer

Once children have collected their rocks, an adult is asked to read an interview of Chief Robert Joseph, Ambassador to Reconciliation Canada, which explains what Reconciliation means to him and his vision is for a future Canada. Children are then asked to paint their rocks based on what they learned. They are told that their rocks will be gifted to a residential school survivor or added to an installation at the Walk for Reconciliation.

The project has seen involvement from teachers and students all across the province.

“I have had a wonderful response from most of the school groups I’ve spoken with and from there it grew in a very organic way. Some people have been so galvanized that it just began to spread through a network of very enthusiastic people,” says Debbie.

Back in May, Debbie attended a First Nations schools’ conference and said about 35 different Indigenous teachers came up to her say “wow this is something we really want to be a part of”. Some of those schools will be participating remotely and making small installations in their communities. So far there have been over 6,000 young participants and Debbie believes that by the time the Walk comes those numbers will have surged.

Ciera DeSilva, a language teacher at Stratford Hall School in East Vancouver, is planning on introducing the art project to her Spanish 8-12 classes.

“I think that it is a great time to address the historical implications of colonialism and the history of what Canada was founded upon. I think it is a powerful approach which will allow students to reflect and take action, rather than write a social studies test on Canadian history,” says DeSilva. “Art is one of the best ways to promote a sense of healing and it has the power to bring everyone together in peace.”

Whether you are a student, child, teacher or community member, we invite you to join us on the Walk for Reconciliation on September 24th and visit the Art Project’s installation at Strathcona Park. Join us in inviting our children to the reconciliation movement. All of your efforts are appreciated—even something as simple as painting a rock.

Chief Joseph says “the future and well-being of our children depends on the relationships we build today.” We believe that now is a powerful time to bring reconciliation to the forefront to explore the depth of Canada’s history and to create a future of justice and prosperity for all people. Our shared future depends greatly on our youth today, as they will become our future leaders.

For more information about how your community or school group can participate in the Reconciliation Art Project please contact the project producer, Debbie Douez at debbiedouez@gmail.com.

The Walk for Reconciliation is part of Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy, a Canada 150 Signature Project, and is funded in part by the Government of Canada. The Walk for Reconciliation is a Canada 150+ Signature Event and the event is being delivered partnership between the City of Vancouver and Reconciliation Canada.

Learn more about the Walk for Reconciliation and the Reconciliation Expo by visiting walkforreconciliation.ca

Walk for Reconciliation

Sunday, September 24th | 9:30am
Cambie St. & Georgia St.
Vancouver, BC

Reconciliation Expo

Sunday, September 24th | 10:30am – 3:00pm
Strathcona Park, 857 Malkin Ave.
Vancouver, BC