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Every Child Matters Walk to honour residential school victims, survivors

By Erin LeBlanc of the Toronto Star

Chants of ‘Every Child Matters’ rang through the streets of Toronto as thousands wore orange and black and took part in the Every Child Matters Walk.

In lieu of Canada Day celebrations Thursday, many marched to support residential school survivors and to honour the memory of more than 1,000 Indigenous children who lost their lives at residential schools across Canada.

The march was organized by Toronto Council Fire, a cultural centre in Toronto that supports and uplifts First Nations people in Toronto.

The walk began at Toronto Council Fire on Dundas Street, and continued to the site of the future Spirit Garden at Toronto City Hall.

Drumming, smudging ceremonies and a round dance all took place as Indigenous peoples and allies joined together in remembrance.

Many of the special events normally associated with Canada Day were either cancelled or scaled back, after hundreds of unmarked graves were found at residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

In Montreal, marchers held banners that read "bring our children home," those in Edmonton and elsewhere had shirts that read "Every Child Matters," and the flag atop the Peace Tower was at half-mast to honour the Indigenous children who died in residential schools.

Meanwhile in London, Ont., more than 10,000 people gathered at Victoria Park on Thursday for the so-called Turtle Island Healing Walk to mourn the children whose unmarked graves were recently discovered.

“It’s beautiful. It shows we’re supported,” co-organizer Elyssa Rose said.

The goal, she says, is for people to learn “hope, healing, love, kindness and unity . . . and a better understanding of how we can move forward in Canada.”

In his Canada Day message, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the horrific findings at the site of former residential schools have "rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country's historical failures" and injustices that still exist for many.

"While we can't change the past, we must be resolute in confronting these truths in order to chart a new and better path forward. Together, we have a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous Peoples," said Trudeau.

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