Mural of Dr O (Oon-hy-a-teh-ka) on the side of the Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training building on Gerrard Street at Allan Gardens
Start of the First Story Toronto tour at Yonge and Dundas
Along Jarvis Street
Over the weekend, First Story Toronto hosted a walk through downtown four times, each time with dozens of people in attendance. The event, called "Truth and Reconciliation on the Streets of Toronto", was in collaboration with Doors Open Toronto.
The mostly-settler audience heard from two tour guides from First Story Toronto
: Brian MacLean, a settler, and Peige Brown, an Indigenous person.
The walk, sponsored by The Carpenter's Union, started at a Ryerson University Building near the corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets.
At the start of one talk, MacLean noted that both Yonge and Dundas were British men who never came to Canada. This, is indicative of how Indigenous place names in Toronto have been lost and replaced by colonial authorities.
First Story Toronto discussed the establishment of the school system for Indigenous children in Upper Canada (Ontario). It was the brain child of the churches along with Egerton Ryerson (whom Ryerson University, where this discussion was happening, is named after) and his friend Kahkewaquonaby from a Mississaugas community who became a Methodist missionary and went by the name Peter Jones.
Indigenous treaties with settlers were also discussed, specifically the Mississaugas case, where they thought they were sharing the land but the British took the land for themselves, relegating the First Nation peoples to a small patch of land, an impoverished existence.
Along the walk, stopping at a Toronto Public Health office, Peige Brown discussed recommendation 23 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report
. The report contains 94 recommendations in total. Number 23 calls for more Indigenous health-care providers, and better training for non-Indigenous health-care staff.
Later, in front of an office of the child welfare system on Jarvis street (Samuel Jarvis was a known swindler of Indigenous peoples
), Brown talked about how the splitting of families wreaks havoc on the youth. "I had a young friend who took her life at an early age," she told the crowd. "The potential was cut short."
Brown emphasized supporting youth and helping them reconnect with what has been cut off as steps to healing. "They do have a culture and most of the time it's their culture that saves them," she said. On a personal note Peige added she felt she found her culture late but when she did, "it brightened my world".
The tour ended at the Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training
offices, which are across the street from Allan Gardens. Anishinaabe Health offices and a Native Women's centre are also located on that stretch of Gerrard Street. These are services that recently did not exist for Indigenous people, and potentially represent a small step in the process of gaining autonomy and having to live in a system entirely controlled by colonial governments along with their imposed culture.