The 77 day Walk of Sorrow arrives in Ottawa
The Walk of Sorrow heads towards Ottawa. (Dylan Dyson/CTV News Ottawa)
ARNPRIOR, ONT. -- Patricia Ballantyne has been walking for 77 days, and on Friday finally finished her goal of reaching Ottawa.
Her journey started in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where years ago she spent 10 years at the Prince Albert Indian Residential School.
The walk, dubbed the Walk of Sorrow, started as a way of self-healing. It has grown into a national journey shared by many.
"The findings of the 215 in Kamloops (British Columbia), it re-triggered the trauma I went through when I was in the residential school," Ballantyne told CTV News Ottawa at her stop in Arnprior. "I felt I needed to heal so that’s what we do is walk, when we need to do something.”
The walk’s final leg was a 12-kilometre stretch from Renfrew to the Antrim Truck Stop in Arnprior, where their convoy was then escorted into Ottawa by police. Over her multi-provincial journey Ballantyne has met many supporters. Friday she met more who resonated with her story.
"My mother is a survivor of a residential school," says Betty Ferris, who travelled to Renfrew from Smiths Falls to catch Ballantyne’s walk. "I’ve been following her on Facebook and watching her videos and it’s just fantastic."
"I’m the granddaughter of a residential school survivor," says Jennifer Diotte, who came out from Ottawa to meet the walkers. "I wanted to do something, so at least I’m here to cheer them on."
"It’s been tough, it’s been a tough walk," says Ballantyne. "We do our ceremonies in the different communities, the healing ceremonies, the spiritual ceremonies. I didn’t expect there to be that many supporters, but it’s been incredible.”
The journey was tough not only due to conditions like sweltering heat, but also because of what the walk stood for.
"It makes me pretty proud actually," Diotte says, watching the walkers pass by her on Highway 17. "But at the same time there’s a lot of anger that this is happening because of what has happened."
"I just love how people have come out; non First Nations people, First Nations people come out to show their support and to show their acknowledgement that residential schools did exist," says Ballantyne.
The Walk of Sorrow plans to hold two additional walks over the weekend in Ottawa, a five-kilometre walk on Saturday and a two-kilometre walk to Parliament Hill on Sunday.
There they plan to hear from other residential school survivors and First Nations leaders, and have hopes to engage with the federal government to plan how a larger healing process can take place.