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Truth and Reconciliation Day event offers Indigenous food, art and storytelling in Port Coquitlam

Riverside Community Church is hosting an event Sept. 30, 2021 in Port Coquitlam featuring Indigenous speakers, arts, culture and food as well as information about residential schools; the event is Indigenous led and organized through the Ballantyne Project

Tri-City residents searching for a unique educational opportunity to learn more about indigenous peoples’ experiences on Truth and Reconciliation Day (Sept. 30) are encouraged to make their way to Port Coquitlam.

That’s where the Ballantyne Project in partnership with Riverside Community Church will be hosting a massive cultural and educational event for adults and youth, including high school students who get the day off from school and can get credit towards graduation for attending and making an art project.

The free event grew out of a speaking engagement with Dwight Ballantyne, who grew up in northern Saskatchewan and now speaks about his experience to B.C. youth.

Riverside associate pastor Mandela Nsenga said Ballantyne so impressed his youth group, a partnership was developed to create awareness for the broader public.

Nsenga, who said his “heart was broken” over revelations about children’s remains identified by ground penetrating radar near the former Kamloops residential school, said churches should be a place of freedom, love and acceptance.

“We were already aware of the history that there was a lot of ongoing issues with indigenous people in our country. We said absolutely we would offer this space for a day of truth and reconciliation and learning.”

The event will engage all the senses as well as shed new light on residential schools and their impact on Indigenous people, said Ballantyne, who told the Tri-City News he hopes non-Indigenous people will welcome the opportunity to participate in a truth and reconciliation event.

“We want to spread awareness and educate non-Indigenous people who want to know more about residential schools,” Ballantyne said.

Ballantyne will be one of the keynote speakers at the event, which will also feature different types of bannock, Indigenous art and an ongoing medicine bag workshop that people can join throughout the evening.

Other speakers include: 

  • Dr. Jennifer Mervyn, a Métis, who was recently acknowledged by the Canadian Association of Mental Health as one of the 150 Canadians making a difference in mental health. She is currently working for Tsawwassen First Nation doing clinical and consultative work.
  • Toni B’yaulings, a non-Indigenous university student who decided to take on a personal journey in an effort to build and strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by cycling over 3,000 km during the month of August 2021 to visit the site of every official residential school in Saskatchewan. He raised over $10,000 for the Orange Shirt Society.  

Here’s the agenda for the event that runs from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 at Riverside Community Church (2329 Fremont Connector):

  • 3:45 p.m. = Doors will open for up to 450 guests, which is how many can be accommodated in the large church, and proof of vaccination will be required for people over 12 years old. Masks will be required and social distancing will be practiced
  • 4:30 p.m. = A welcoming ceremony will be performed by Deanna Miller from Katzie First Nation 
  • 6:30 p.m. = Doors to the theatre open for special guest speakers. Due to the content of the presentations this segment of the event is recommended for ages 11 and older

High school students who attend and then submit a work of art by email to The Ballantyne Project sharing what they experienced and/or learned can get a certificate from The Ballantyne Project for six hours of community volunteer hours towards graduation.

For more information, contact The Ballantyne Project at [email protected].