Son of late residential school survivor, advocate honours family at Survivors Walk in Winnipeg

The son of a residential school survivor says he’s proud to represent his late father at Friday’s Survivors Walk in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg.

Dr. Raymond Mason, who died earlier this year, was an integral voice for his fellow survivors and played a key behind-the-scenes role in the development of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Kyle Mason, his son, works as a speaker and reconciliation guide, helping organizations become strong allies with the Indigenous community. He told 680 CJOB’s The Start that taking part in the walk has a special significance this year.

“It means honouring and remembering my father, but it also means honouring my mother and my ancestors and many other family members. It also means there’s work to do — there’s a lot of people to help along this journey of reconciliation,” he said.

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“On a personal level, it’s going to mean a lot. It’s going to be hard, I’m sure. Last year, at the first annual walk and powwow, I was helping my father around in a wheelchair.

“He was honoured to participate in the grand entry — that meant a lot to him. He got recognized by the speakers and he really appreciated that… and I know he would absolutely love and appreciate what’s being done for him today, so me and other family members will go in his place and remember my father.”

Read more: Hundreds of Winnipeg high school students walk for reconciliation

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Mason said his dad’s experience in residential institutions had long-lasting, generational impacts — even though he was eventually able to turn things around and become a positive example and important voice for others.

“He had to spend years in these institutions and it deeply impacted him, deeply harmed him in many ways for a long, long time,” he said.

“I hesitate to call these institutions schools, because they were anything but actual schools — they were forced places where children were kidnapped and indoctrinated and often tortured and done a lot of horrible things to.

“Thankfully, he did do a lot of healing and a lot of work on himself and that allowed him to become a very strong advocate for fellow survivors… and he continued to fight for survivors up until the day he passed.”

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The second annual walk begins at the Oodena Circle at The Forks, finishing up at 1 p.m. at the RBC Convention Centre, where the Orange Shirt Day Pow-Wow will take place.

Winnipeggers of all walks of life are encouraged to take part in the day’s activities, Mason said.

“Both things are free and everyone’s welcome to attend. Come out, see our dances, see our regalia, and let’s continue on the next step of reconciliation together.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg students walk in spirit of reconciliation' Winnipeg students walk in spirit of reconciliation

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