By Jessica Munro
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
GANANOQUE- Locals painted an orange crosswalk in Gananoque just in time for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
As mass burial sites of Indigenous children from residential schools have been discovered this year, a local Gananoque resident proposed the idea to paint an orange crosswalk to show support to Indigenous people in the community.
“It’s been a year that has certainly been like a call to some action,” said Deb Keogh, the organizer behind the orange crosswalk.
Keogh said that like many other Canadians she was horrified to learn about the findings and confirmations of the thousands of mass gravesites that have been found across Canada from residential schools.
While attending the July 1 memorial at the Town Hall in Gananoque, Keogh listened as many local Indigenous people of the community recounted their stories, and spoke about how it’s important for non-Indigenous people to do more work towards truth and reconciliation.
“I think for me my thought was I’m not sure what’s happening in our local community in terms of non-Indigenous events or people communicating about what’s happening,” said Keogh.
As a non-Indigenous person, Keogh said that, like many others, she did not know the extent of the horrors that Indigenous people were subjected to over centuries of colonization and many people across the province have been silent on the issue.
“We may not have been the perpetrators of those events that have happened, we have a responsibility to work towards learning as much as we can and reconcile and genuinely apologize,” said Keogh.
She said now is the time for non-Indigenous people to step up and show their support.
She sees this crosswalk as an opportunity to do something simple yet visible to show support from non-Indigenous people now that the Little Shoes Memorial has been removed from the steps of Town Hall.
“It’s a symbolic way of letting the community as a whole know that we are paying attention and we are very saddened,” said Keogh, “and wanting to be as supportive as possible to the Indigenous community.”
Later during the month of July, a local group of volunteers and the Rainbow Connection Committee of the Thousand islands painted a rainbow Pride flag crosswalk in downtown Gananoque in support of the LGTBQ+ community.
“I was very inspired by that,” said Keogh.
To her, it was a way to shine a light on the fact that allies can still do something tangible to show their support.
During the Sept. 7 regular Council meeting, council approved the proposed plan for the orange crosswalk to be painted on Park Street, connecting the Town Hall and park to the library just beyond the existing rainbow crosswalk.
She said it seemed like a good idea to have the town hall linked to the Library through the crosswalk because “libraries are always kind of felt to be places of knowledge and learning and the linking of those two things together may be representing the beginning of some new directions.”
Gananoque Mayor Ted Lojko said that this crosswalk seemed like something the community wanted to do in terms of truth and reconciliation, to support Indigenous people.
Keogh planned for the orange crosswalk to be painted before Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The crosswalk was completed on Monday with help from her husband and friends who volunteered to help paint.
Inside the orange stripe they painted the words “Every Child Matters” on one end of the crosswalk and on the other side “Truth and Reconciliation.”
“It’s certainly not the work we need to do, but it is a small step,” said Keogh.
Jessica Munro is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the BROCKVILLE RECORDER AND TIMES. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.