Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down on June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga- Western News)

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down on June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga- Western News)

‘Far beyond an orange shirt’: Syilx Okanagan Nation demands justice ahead of Sept. 30

‘We continue to fight and are challenged every day,’ said Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel

Leaders from the Syilx Okanagan Nation are demanding meaningful action from both the provincial and federal governments ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel says Friday’s holiday goes “far beyond” wearing an orange shirt, with a five-kilometre “Walk for Children” set to take place at 10 a.m. from the Peach at Okanagan Lake to the Syilx Indian Residential School Nation’s monument on En’owkin Trail.

“The Province of B.C. and Government of Canada continue to use the term ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ as a means for political gain because it makes them look good,” Gabriel said. “On the ground, we continue to fight and are challenged every day with their colonial bureaucracy and legislation that have profound impacts on our daily lives.”

READ MORE: ‘These are criminal acts’: Penticton Indian Band Chief on residential school discoveries

Friday morning’s walk intends to raise awareness ongoing trauma and devastation that Syilx people face as a result of Indian Residential Schools, the Okanagan Nation Alliance says. A celebration of Indigenous culture will then run at Penticton’s Gyro Park starting at 1 p.m., featuring First Nations dance performances, drumming, singing, arts and crafts, vendors and an acknowledgment of the day.

“Actions like these take place while the Government of Canada has again gone back on their commitment for either truth and reconciliation,” the Syilx Okanagan Nation said in a statement on Sept. 29.

It was widely reported this summer that the government agreed to “forever discharge” the Catholic church from having to raise the $25 million they had initially promised to Indian Residential School survivors in 2015.

“Such disturbing acts highlight the hollow promises and empty commitments of the federal government,” they added.

READ MORE: Deal freeing Catholic entities from $25M campaign for residential schools released

Friday marks the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are the only provinces or territories to declare Sept. 30 a statutory holiday.

“This goes far beyond wearing an orange shirt for a day, but requires consistent direct action,” Gabriel said.

READ MORE: Here’s how Penticton plans on recognizing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

READ MORE: Most provinces have not made Sept. 30 a stat

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