Lt.-Gov hopes Orange Shirt Day will lead to broader understanding of residential school history

Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty’s first run on the fully-completed Prince Albert Rotary Trail brought back plenty of memories, and helped serve as an important reminder on Orange Shirt Day.

Mirasty, a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and honourary Rotarian, attended residential school in Prince Albert as a youth. On Wednesday, he was back in town to test out the trail with members of the local Rotary Club, including his son Matthew. The group not only completed the entire route, they also took a brief detour to see his old school grounds.

“We do get questions about why we keep talking about residential schools or why people keeping bringing it up,” Mirasty said shortly after finishing the Run. “It’s really about creating that broader understanding and from that understanding we start to create better relationships.

“Of course, we talk about reconciliation. You can’t have reconciliation without good relationships, and a good understanding of each other.”

Mirasty attended residential school for four years, then joined the RCMP in 1976 after graduating. At the time, he was one of only two Indigenous cadets in his troop.

He said Orange Shirt Day was an important day, but also a good one, because it shows just how far Canada has come since that time. However, he maintained the job isn’t done yet, especially when it comes to education. He said there’s still more to do when it comes to understanding the impact residential schools continue to have on Indigenous people.

“In my experience in the RCMP and now as the lieutenant-governor, I see more understanding, but there is work to be done,” Mirasty said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, to make sure that understanding is broader, so that people (know) what it’s all about.”

Ideally, Mirasty wants Saskatchewan residents to be more open-minded about ways to improve relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people He said if residents are serious about reconciliation, that’s where it needs to start.

Mirasty was in Prince Albert at the invitation of the Rotary Club. Club president Keith Fonstad said they’ve tried to be more proactive about recognizing the trauma residential schools caused, but it helps to have survivors like Mirasty who are willing to talk about the issue.

“Orange Shirt Day represents the acknowledging that it happened, and the recognizing that it still has a lasting affect today,” Fonstad explained. “(It’s also) to make sure we do better going forward.”

The Rotary Trail was completed last year, and starts and finishes at the site of Mirasty’s old residential school. Fonstad said they thought the Orange Shirt Day run was a good way to recognize that history.

“Matthew and the lieutenant-governor have talked about running the Rotary Trail now that it’s been completed over the past year,” Fonstad said. “We thought this was a nice way to recognize Orange Shirt Day and the purpose of it.”

“Get out and use that trail,” Mirasty added. “It’s beautiful. Get some exercise and you’ll benefit from it.”

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca

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