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Westlock to host second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Cultural awareness, education, history will be shared at Sept. 30 event
Social worker and residential school survivor Elder Rita Arcand, from Alexander First Nation, demonstrated the “seven generations cycle” with volunteers, L-R, Town of Westlock mayor Ralph Leriger, councillors Jon Kramer and Abby Keyes and Clyde resident Jason Laboucane during inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation event Sept. 28, 2022, at Memorial Hall. The town will be hosting another event this year in partnership with Alexander First Nation on Sept. 30.

WESTLOCK — The Town of Westlock will be hosting a second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Cultural Awareness event in partnership with Alexander First Nation this fall.

The inaugural event held last September with support from Alexander First Nation, featured an educational session, drummers, dancers and a traditional meal.

At the Jan. 23 regular council meeting, CAO Simone Wiley told council about a grant application to the Department of Canadian Heritage, under the Commemorate Canada Program, requesting $6,250 to assist with hosting another event this year. The total project costs are $12,500.

“The intent is to build upon our successful Truth and Reconciliation event of 2022 and hold another community event in 2023, and this Canadian Heritage grant is specifically for that,” said Wiley.  

Although no details have been finalized, Wiley said they have been in contact with event partners and noted that Sept. 30 falls on a Saturday this year which is the day the town is looking to host.

Noting some feedback from the community about the inaugural event, Wiley said “the timing was tricky” because it was a bit too early for many people still working and trying to accommodate work schedules. “It was a challenge though because we had so much to pack into that evening that we didn’t want it to run too late either,” explained Wiley.       

In building on the relationship with Alexander First Nation, this year’s event will include education and awareness on the history, impact, and legacy of residential schools, as presented by an Elder, the sharing of culture and traditions, with performers from Alexander First Nation showcasing traditional drumming and dances, in addition to having an Elder share a prayer and a traditional meal.

About 150 people attended the event in 2022 while the town is anticipating double that number this year.

“We certainly look forward to it, bigger and better each year,” said mayor Ralph Leriger. 

Kristine Jean,