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There was a massive show of support on Vancouver Island for residential school survivors from hundreds of bikers from around the province Sunday.
The bike rally, from Duncan to Victoria was organized to honour the 215 children found at a former Kamloops residential school last month.
“I grew up and didn’t know anything and I think everybody else here is the same way and now that the word is out we are supporting our brothers and sisters that were born on this land and the children that never came home,” said Allan Kenesky, a participant from Nanaimo.
The organizers, who have been impacted by residential schools, were overwhelmed by the massive turnout.
“Patsy called me to see if I could bring a few bikes into the Cowichan territories for a healing ceremony. I anticipated maybe 25 to 30 bikes but the turnout. Everybody’s come to support,” said Richard Carpenter, an organizer.
There was a sea of orange going down the road as hundreds of bikers rode from Duncan to Victoria and back.
“A lot of people want to acknowledge what happened there and they want to honour the missing and the ones that didn’t come home,” said Monica Jones, executive director with Cowichan Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“It’s impacted so many people, within our communities within our province and within our country and with the support that’s happening now and the awakening and the awareness we call to the government to bring forward some more policies to and processes and supports for indigenous communities,” said Troy Elliot, a Cowichan Tribes member.
Eddy Charlie knows the pain firsthand. The Kuper Island Residential School survivor has been sharing his story of abuse for years and he was buoyed by the turnout when often his story has been met with impatience in the past.
“Why do you talk about residential schools? That happened so long ago. Forget about it. Move on. And to finally have this kind of attention focussed on the residential school appearance. It means so much to me,” said Charlie.
He says it’s a good thing a national conversation is now happening and hopes events like these will keep it going.