Hundreds gather to pay tribute to residential school victims as part of a reflective Canada Day

Droves of people gathered at the Saskatchewan Legislature to pay honour those who lost their lives while attending residential schools in Canada.

The vigil came at the end of a toned-down Canada Day due to both the pandemic, and the recent discoveries of over 1000 unmarked graves at former residential schools in B.C., and Saskatchewan.

The event served as a sort of open mic to anyone who wished to share their story.

Pamela Blondeau took the mic to ask for changes to government policies and increased funding for Indigenous programs.

“Our people are still trying to cope, our people are still trying to figure out a way to deal with this pain that we go through, our intergenerational pain,” said Blondeau. “Watching our older people suffer and then having it passed on. I think what we are allowed to do right now is break those cycles, and we need the room to do that.”

Blondeau stated that many of the great things that people associate with Canada have been built while leaving Indigenous Peoples behind.

Jessica Pratt, a coach with YWCA Regina said she has seen firsthand how the discoveries have changed people’s thinking as she shared the story of her partner’s new attitude towards Indigenous Peoples.

“My partner, when we started being together 5 years ago, he had this attitude, he wouldn’t give anything to Indigenous People, ‘well they can get a job’”, said Pratt. “Four days ago, he said to me ‘honey, I’m changing, I was giving away smokes, buying food, giving away money’. I said no, you’re not changing, you’re seeing. You’re seeing now, you see their history when you look at them, you couldn’t do that before, you’re learning.”

Pratt added that many kids in the foster system still experience racism, discrimination, and abuse. Much like the children who attended residential schools.

While many approached Thursday with a somberness, Nick Helliwell, a Chaplin at the Regina Correctional Centre, said the day was a good day.

“This is a good day, and I say it’s a good day because this has been shrouded in silence for far too long,” said Helliwell. “It’s a darkness that’s hung over this land, and I’m so thankful that it’s coming out into the light.”

The vigil also featured drum songs, prayers, and a round dance.

More from Play92