We were most pleased, recently, to welcome walkers from the west. A group of Native men and women set out from Vancouver on June 21st, National Aboriginal Day, planning to walk all the way to Ottawa. By the 29th of August they had reached our neck of the woods, and stayed here for two nights.
These sure-footed travellers belong toa group called Walk4Justice. One of the walkers, Robert, is originally from Nelson House, Manitoba, and now lives in Vancouver. He explained that the goals of the walk were to raise awareness and to protest inaction regarding Native people who have gone missing or have been killed, throughout the country and particularly on the “Highway of Tears” in B.C. They want a national symposium or inquiry to be held on this issue. They were planning to hold an event on Parliament Hill, at the end of the journey. (That event has now taken place, on the 19th of September.)
Here, by the shores of Anderson Lake, they were met by the ASC community and by a women’s hand drum group from M’Chigeeng First Nation. They drummed, prayed, and told stories, and at the end of the day we ate together. One of the walkers, an artist herself – a totem pole carver – was impressed and took photos of some of the artwork here.
Undoubtedly, this courageous and dedicated group faced their daily challenges along the way. Here at the Centre, the day had fallen and some of the group had yet to arrive. Some had to go out and search for the others. It was no easy task, over the thousands of kilometres that they had travelled, and the hundreds that they had still to travel, to keep oneself committed to such a daunting trek. Surely their companionship and their good cause kept them going.
For more information on Walk4Justice, visit: www.fnbc.info/walk4justice
We were fortunate to have Fr. Philippe Landenne SJ, from the French Belgian Province, spend some time with us recently. Fr. Philippe has worked in prison ministry in Belgium for 25 years. He also founded a community, “Catacombs”, that welcomes former inmates who have just left prison.
This was not the first time in Canada for Philippe. In 2005, he spent six months in Ottawa. There, he met Pierre Allard, who was then the Director of Chaplaincy for the Correctional Service of Canada. It was through Mr. Allard that Philippe was introduced to restorative justice, and Philippe has been working in that field ever since.
While he was with us, Philippe presented an evening on this topic of restorative justice. He showed us an excellent documentary about the Hollow Water Native band in Manitoba, which has adopted a community-based healing circle with a restorative justice approach. He explained the difference between restorative and punitive justice. He challenged us to question our society`s punitive system, and suggested that Christianity, with its rich tradition of reconciliation, has something to contribute to this claimed Native tradition of community justice and healing circles. We were inspired to want to learn more, and Philippe offered this work to us as a possible area to focus on here at the Centre.
Philippe also visited with some local Native groups who practise alternative forms of justice. He visited them in the company of the new director of the Centre, Fr. David Shulist. Philippe and David also had time to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, going on a couple of canoe trips. It was Philippe’s first time canoeing, and he proved himself well. We hope he is able to return for further work in restorative justice, and also no doubt for more canoeing and swimming.