A wonderful festival was held on Saturday, October 1st at the Bell Centre of Performing Arts for the International Day of Peace and Truth and Reconciliation Day.  The day began was a moment of silence, remembering the children. The morning of the Anti-racist Peace Festival focused on the deeper meanings of actual reconciliation that would bring an actual peace and not settler manufactured assimilative versions. Fern Gabriel generously welcomed us all, followed by Tom Jacksons message and song, and a minute of silence remembering the children. Melinda Bige from Kwantlen University provided an incredible keynote so moving, so challenging to all of us, Shyama Priya and Troy Derrick moved our bodies, hearts and mind, Troy has the uncanny ability to ask questions that unsettled in the best of ways. With sadness as we listened to the history of residential schools and its effects and how our government has and continues to mistreat members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who are defending their lands from the construction of a pipeline. 

We got to spend more time with Tory, along with Peter Prontzos and Lorene Oikawa as Annie Ohana, moderated a panel with these community leaders of what intersectional peace truly looks like. The festival is an example of the work that’s needed to be done to make sure Truth and Reconciliation does not stop at wearing an Orange Shirt. 

A speech/performance by Climate Recentered coached by teacher Violette Baillargeon, represented the intersectionality of the event. Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Other speeches by Peter Prontzos, Political Science professor Emeritus from Langara College and Barbara Waldren from Just Peace Committee discussed the causes of war and what is needed to prevent conflict.  

Teachers Niovi Patsicakis, Raman Sangha-Dhami, Annie Ohana, and retired teacher Karen Kilbride also in the Status of Women Committee, were involved in the planning and execution of the festival. Student volunteers from LA Matheson and from other peace and community organizations in Surrey and Vancouver were amazingly helpful throughout the day. There were exceptional children’s multicultural performances, many from Surrey and art and literary contest participants who received awards and prizes for their work.   

The festival was sponsored by municipal and provincial governments, large and small businesses, and media. We thank Surrey Teachers Association for their support.  The festival was videotaped and will be used for educational purposes. High school teachers can book a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation and/or the topic of Peace. Please email info@peacealways.org  for more information. 

Thank you to teachers Niovi Patsicakis, Raman Sangha-Dhami, Annie Ohana for sharing this article. 

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