Hundreds took to the streets for a march in Montreal Thursday for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
For some, like 8-year-old Ruby Caldwell Kramer, it was a way to honour survivors of the residential school system.
“My grandma went to residential school,” she told the crowd prior to the march while her grandmother Ida Baptiste looked on.
It’s also a day to grieve those who went missing.
“Orange shirt day is about the kids that never went home,” added Ruby to the crowd, who gathered at Place du Canada park in downtown Montreal.
But for most here, the day is about action.
Or for Alan Gull, Cree of Eeyou Istchee (James Bay), specifically, the lack of it.
“It’s sad to say that I’m a First Nations person from Quebec cause you know our provincial government doesn’t even recognize the day as a holiday,” said Gull, who himself is a day school survivor.
Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) artist and activist Ellen Gabriel took the occasion to call for all Canadians to act.
“We need you to push your educators, to push your government, to push your elected leaders to make the changes that truth and reconciliation commission talked about, that the elders who survived had so generously, but painfully told their stories at the truth and reconciliation commission,” said Gabriel to the crowd, who gathered at the foot of where a John A. Macdonald statue stood before it was torn down by activists last year.
Macdonald was prime minister when the residential school system came into force.
“Education was used as a tool against Indigenous people, now we want to use that tool to turn the tables,” Gabriel added.
For the family of Ruby Caldwell Kramer, including her mother Lara Kramer, perhaps the most important act of all was their singing of the traditional Morning Rising song, which celebrates ”this beautiful land of ours”.
“I am the first child in my family to learn about the spirituality of natives,” concluded Caldwell Kramer.
The rain fell lightly as they sang in defiance of the system that once tried to kill their culture.
The crowd cheered then took to the streets.
As they marched they filled the air with a chant: “Every Child Matters!”