Truck convoy moves through Ottawa to honour residential school victims
OTTAWA -- A convoy of trucks travelled through downtown Ottawa Sunday as a show of support for Indigenous peoples and to honour the 215 children whose remains were found at the former Kamloops, B.C. residential school.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent", organizer Roger Steepe said he wanted to do something.
"I heard about the Kamloops rally and how successful it was out there and it's something that I could do, too," he said.
"I didn't want to make today a political thing. I wanted today to be a humanitarian thing," he added. "We're all in it together. We're all one community, one person, one humanity. It doesn't matter if you're Indigenous or not, we've got to support each other. Everybody wants the same thing in life: to be happy."
The convoy rolled out at around 9:30 a.m. from their staging site at Cavanaugh Construction in Ashton. The convoy made its way down Highway 417, up Kent Street in Ottawa, down Wellington Street in front of Parliament, and then along Elgin Street before making its way back to Highway 417 to end the rally.
The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops residential school prompted an outpouring of grief and support across Canada. Residential school survivors and their supporters held vigils across the country. Governments symbolically lowered flags to mark the deaths. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has pledged $10 million to identify and commemorate unmarked burial sites across the province.
In Kingston, Ont., the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, was removed from its pedestal in a downtown park.
Macdonald played a key role in the development of the residential school system. About 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend the schools. Canada's last residential school closed in 1996.
And while Steepe says Sunday's convoy in Ottawa is about honouring Indigenous peoples, he hopes the convoy does get the attention of decision makers in the federal government.
"I hope the politicians are listening and have less talk and more action now," he said. "It's been too long for any of this to be not noticed and not recognized. More action now and less talking about it."
After the convoy, Steepe told CTV News Ottawa he was pleased with the turnout.
"As I saw the trucks roll in this morning it really hit me, that in a short time we could get all these drivers, especially on a Father’s Day, to come and do this. Some people say we shouldn’t do it on a Father’s Day, but all those kids didn’t get the chance to have a Father’s Day with their dad," he said.
"It’s a history of Canada, and it’s not a very good history, but we’re still all Canadians and we’ve got to all come together as one community."
Co-organizer Lyoness Woodstock said the news of the discovery in Kamloops shocked many Canadians.
"As a group of truck divers we thought it was important for us to let that community know that we have heard this, and we are shocked. We are sickened by this news. And now we know," Woodstock said.
"It’s pretty amazing to look in the rear view mirror and see a kilometre and a half of trucks with flags and ribbons and orange shirts on, four way flashers going, headlights on. It really puts a lump in your throat."