Meant to be more than a memorial, the Every Child Matters crosswalk in Keremeos is a call to action for all those who were there at its unveiling and who live in the community.
More than 60 people gathered and participated in the unveiling of the crosswalk on July 17, including the Chief and Elders of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and the village’s municipal mayor and council.
The crosswalk is located on 4th Avenue, between the village’s municipal offices and Memorial Park.
The ceremony’s prayer was given by Herman Edwards, a residential school survivor himself, and he provided the drumming when everyone lifted off the covering of the crosswalk together.
“It’s not just a token crosswalk because anyone can paint a crosswalk,” said sm̓x̌íkən, Stacey Donovan, an LSIB language and cultural support worker and the organizer of the ceremony. “It’s not the paint, it’s not just the crosswalk, it’s meaningless without the people who put their hearts and souls into every day that we walk across it.”
The project has been underway for months with talks between the village, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, Elders and residential school survivors.
The unveiling of the crosswalk, and the sharing of stories from Edwards and his partner Joanne Lafferty, who has worked for years with survivors and with the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, brought tears to the eyes and so did the first steps across the orange stripes.
LSIB Chief Keith Crow was respectful as he looked over to the crosswalk and said that it is a memorial, as well as a reminder of the work to make sure this never happens again.
“In one way, I’m glad we did this but my heart still sobs and hurts for those children that have not been returned home, who could not come back,” said Crow. “We want to honour them and keep them in your minds and always think of them and all of the families in our community who had loved ones who did not return.”
The site of the crosswalk was also blessed and had a traditional brushing off by the Elders and members of the LSIB privately before it was painted.
The crosswalk is just one of what is planned and hoped to be ongoing reconciliation initiatives in the community — and beyond, said Mayor Jason Weibe. He would like to see a collaborative project that would connect the Similkameen Valley in the future.
In the shorter term, planning and talks are currently underway about a project for Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.