The 2017 Walk for Reconciliation recognizing First Nations peoples drew an estimated 50,000 people in Vancouver on Sept. 24. Some two-dozen Mennonites from several Lower Mainland congregations walked together under a “Mennonite Folks” sign organized by Garry Janzen, Mennonite Church B.C.’s executive minster.
As an encouragement to join the walk, at least one MC B.C. congregation cancelled regular morning services.
The walk was a call to action, born from the vision of Chief Robert Joseph, ambassador and founder of Reconciliation Canada, to inspire Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to make a shared commitment toward reconciliation and revitalized relationships between the two groups. A statement from Joseph on the Reconciliation Canada webpage says, “Our future and the well-being of all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today.”
The two-kilometre walk, a Canada 150+ signature event, was jointly hosted by the City of Vancouver and by Reconciliation Canada, following in the tradition of the 2013 walk that drew 70,000 participants. It began in downtown Vancouver and ended in Strathcona Park with a community festival. Indigenous speakers included Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who gave the keynote address, and Joseph. Booths, dances and displays by various organizations, as well as a blanket exercise, were included.
Commented participant Stan Olson of Abbotsford, “I was really encouraged by the many thousands of people who participated in the walk, in support of taking further steps on the journey of reconciliation, in the spirit of ‘Namwayut–We are all one.’ Will Mennonites embrace the ongoing journey to build new relationships with First Nations people around us, as one way for God’s healing and hope to flow through us to the world?”