Long walk to amend Indian Act

By David Briggs
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chief Vern Janvier, members of Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, and supporters of the cause, are making the long walk to Ottawa with hopes of changing the Indian Act.

They began their trek to the capital in Sudbury on July 18 and move 20 kms per day until they reach parliament hill.

Along they way Chief Janvier and his fellow walkers raise awareness of the Indian Act, emphasizing the policies outlined in that Act need to change.

Chipewyan Prairie First Nation began planning their 500 km walk from Sudbury to Ottawa in mid-July, calling the trek the Blinding Light Walk – Tiger Lily, which is also the name of their Facebook page, where they thoroughly document the voyage.

“Reconciliation is rebuilding the Indian Act,” the First Nation emphasized. “Policies need to be changed,” and “changing the Indian Act will benefit all Canadians.”

Chipewyan Prairie First Nation is about 130 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. On Canada Day, First Nation members and supporters began “a six day walk to Fort McMurray from the reserve,” Joey Podlubny explained by phone as he walked the highway’s shoulder.

That first walk on Canada day was to honour the children discovered on the grounds of residential schools.

“Even though it was the last day of walking it felt like the beginning,” the group posted to social media.

The walk marked “the beginning of a journey of healing and strength,” encouraging people to come together and give “our strength to every one of us.”

“Every child matters and the genocide that took place matters,” the post continued, emphasizing “this is one of the most important movements in the history of Canada.”

Chief Vern Janvier, Chipewyan Prairie First Nation members, and supporters embark upon their long walk for change. – submitted photo

Soon after their arrival at Fort McMurray, Chief Janvier asked “all Nations to join us, to gather and raise awareness” Podlubny said.

“This is healing,” he emphasized, “we want to see people and talk with people” along the way, and so far, the group has received “amazing support.”

The group made stops in Sturgeon Falls and at Nipissing First Nation where “the kindness everyone has shown fills our hearts.”

Yesterday, the group rested their heels in North Bay, where Al Landry, from the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre (NBIFC) dropped by to offer some snacks.

Kathy Fortin, the executive director of NBIFC, mentioned that “The Blinding Light Walk – Tiger Lily is an impressive group, most especially, Chief Vern Janvier who is showing leadership in action with this walk across Canada, as he invites other leaders to join him.”

And despite putting so much asphalt behind them each day, those walking remain in high spirits, despite the blisters and worn soles. “We feel great,” Podlubny said.

“This is the time for the shackles of colonialism to be taken off of the First Nations people,” Chief Janvier said, and each passing day brings him closer to personally delivering that message at Parliament Hill.