Dozens of First Nations canoes took to the waters of Vancouver's False Creek this morning to launch a series of free public events for Reconciliation Week.
The aim of the week is to revitalize the relationship between aboriginal peoples and all Canadians.
Everyone is invited to participate in the events, which include the lighting of a Fire of Reconciliation at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver on Monday during a small ceremony, and a canoe gathering on Tuesday morning in False Creek in Vancouver.
"It's absolutely phenomenal," said Gwawaenuk elder, Chief Robert Joseph, the founder of Reconciliation Canada, which organized the events.
As a small child, Joseph was taken from his home and subjected to years of abuse at a residential school.
"What goes through my mind is that people really do care. and that aboriginal people, survivors, really want to define the new way forward — something that gets us moving in a direction of hope and inspiration," said Joseph
From Wednesday to Saturday the PNE grounds will host a wide range of events, including free public dialogues workshops and panels, survivor walks, displays, prayers, talent nights, film screenings and closing ceremony party.
On Sunday a large march through the streets of downtown Vancouver is planned, starting at Queen Elizabeth Plaza with dancers at 8:30 a.m. PT, followed by the march at 10:00 a.m.
Several schools, including UBC and Emily Carr, are giving students the day off on Wednesday in order to allow them to participate in the PNE events.
Other dialogue events have been scheduled in communities throughout B.C.