At the 2017 Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation, elder Josette Dandurand spoke to the crowd before everyone started the journey. (Langley Advance files)

At the 2017 Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation, elder Josette Dandurand spoke to the crowd before everyone started the journey. (Langley Advance files)

Reconciliation walk starts in Fort Langley and ends in Mission

The walk is divided up over three days and centres on people making personal connections.

It’s not a guilt trip. It’s not a head trip. It’s a leisurely walking trip to allow people to meet and talk.

The third annual Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Rev. Paul Guiton, of the Anglican Church, is the first to admit there is no set way to achieve reconciliation between indigenous Canadians and the rest of Canadian society.

“I think this is a gesture to begin our part in reconciliation,” he said.

About 100 people have taken part in the past two walks, ranging from children pushed by their parents in strollers to senior citizens.

Guiton said one Kwantlen elder comment after a previous walk that he couldn’t believe people were willing to do this kind of event in order to make connections with local First Nations.

“There really isn’t a road map” for reconciliation,” Guiton commented. “But the important thing is we show willingness.”

Reconciliation isn’t about naming someone the winner and someone else the loser, or the traditional adversarial model.

“We all win,” he said of reconciliation. “Having this separation with a large and relatively youthful segment of our population, regardless of the moral issues… doesn’t make sense, economically and socially.”

The dynamic of the walk changes as people cover more ground.

“They define themselves really by the speed at which they walk,” he said with a chuckle. “Little groups form and conversations take place.”

This year organizers have added spots to pause for brief information sessions.

New wrinkle

The event is organized with the Langley Churches for Reconciliation which included the United Churches of Langley, the Langley Mennonite Fellowship, the Willoughby Christian Reformed Church, and the Anglican Church.

The event has been tweaked a bit each year. Last year there was a bit of flooding, but this year’s has been worse.

“We’ve learned a little bit each year,” said Guiton. “The flooding this year has been an additional wrinkle.”

The walk will have to take a modified route due to high water levels, he said.

The walk will start with an opening ceremony at the Fort Langley National Historic Site on Friday evening at about 5:30 p.m. before walkers set off along River Road.

“The intended end point is the dike just east of 264th Street,” he explained. “But right now there is flooding in that area.”

So the walk will to as far as safe. There are buses to transport people back from the finishing point, and in fact, there is transport available at any point of the walk back to the starting point, should anyone feel they no longer can walk.

“We do have transportation laid on throughout because we are aware there are some people who can’t walk very far,” he said.

The walk picks up again the next day but in an abbreviated format.

“Saturday, we’ve already cancelled the afternoon leg of the walk,” he added.

But the walk will go Saturday morning as far as the Mt. Lehman Community Centre in Abbotsford where everyone will enjoy lunch.

On Sunday, the walk starts under the Mission Bridge at 2:30 p.m. and heads to the Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission where there will be a feast and closing ceremony.

Guiton noted that people can attend Sunday’s feast and closing, as all are welcome to sit together for a meal.

People can find out more or register at eventbrite.ca (search for Walk in the Spirit of Reconciliation). There’s also information on Facebook under Working for Reconciliation.

The walk plans could still change, depending on the flooding threat. Guiton noted that legs of the walk could be shortened if sandbagging help is needed.

“We’re trying to coordinate with Kwantlen and Katzie to see if they need any help,” he said.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission