Alberta trek marks aboriginal day of healing

Hundreds of people set off on commemorative walk northeast of Edmonton Monday for the aboriginal National Day of Healing and Reconciliation.

Hundreds of people set off on a 22-kilometre walk northeast of Edmonton on Monday morning to mark the aboriginal National Day of Healing and Reconciliation.

Former residential school students, their family members and others planned to walk from St. Paul to Saddle Lake.

One of the participants, Shannon Houle, said she'll be thinking about her relatives who went to the schools.

"[I'll be] praying for those who are still suffering and praying for those who are trying to heal from that pain and this walk is a way of us supporting them in our healing and encouraging our people to take pride in who we are and realize that this is an experience and we need to learn from it, heal from it and ensure it never happens again," she said.

She said she will also be remembering a family member who recently died as she walks.

"My grandfather, when he 16 years old, and another boy carried a little boy from St. Albert to Saddle Lake to bring this boy home because he was being abused in this residential school.

"And when they dropped this little boy off, they walked back to take punishment," she said. "They did this to save this little boy."

There were to be events held across the country designed to educate Canadians about the aboriginal children who attended residential schools, as well as to promote forgiveness and understanding.

Donita Large, who helped to organize some of the events in Edmonton, said aboriginal communities in Canada have opened their day of healing to all groups who have suffered past injustices.

"It started to evolve to not only include residential schools, but the other ethnic groups who have come forward around issues around [wartime] internment camps and those types of things," she said.

Large said the goal of the events is to build new relationships between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in Canada.

This year's day of healing in the grassroots movement follows the awarding of about $1.3 billion in payments in the residential school settlement over the past several  months.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission studying the legacy of residential schools will convene on June 1 to hear more stories from former residential school students.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to issue a national apology on June 11 for the legacy of the school system.