Burns on one last walk

Activist wants to transition to helping others build healthy relationships

Conrad Burns, left, accompanied by Cory Meredith, departs on his last awareness walk on May 29, 2020. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Conrad Burns has done a lot of walking.

It’s something he’s become known for.

He’s walked to Saskatoon. He’s walked from Saskatoon. He’s walked across Canada.

Friday, Burns started his last walk.

Burns and a friend, Cory Meredith, met at the fountain in Memorial Square Friday morning. Side by side, they were off, heading south down Central.

“Want to do some square dancing?” Burns joked as he began walking, the Arts Centre playing a fiddle through its new speakers.

He sighed.

“It’s been a hell of a journey.”

Burns began walking over a decade ago after he ended a relationship with an emotionally abusive girlfriend.

In an interview with the StarPheonix in 2018, Burns said she, too, had been a survivor of abuse.

When that relationship ended, Burns wanted to help others understand the cycle of abuse. He started walking.

“By continuing to walk, more and more people have shared their stories,” Burns told the StarPhoenix’s Thia James.

“More and more people come forward, more people want to help others and help themselves out.”

In 2016, he took his walk to raise awareness of abuse across Canada. In 2018 he started a not for profit called Rise Up to continue his work.

But for Burns, the walks are over.

“We’re walking from City Hall in Prince Albert all the way to Saskatoon,” Burns said Friday.

“This is our last walk to raise awareness about abuse. This is about 11 years in the making. We’re transitioning from looking at the negative of abuse and trying to look to where we go in the future, trying to help build healthy, positive, supportive relationships in order to raise us up.”

Burns said Rise Up was created and inspired by Patricia Crow. Burns incorporated it into a local non-profit. Rise Up, though, is transitioning into HELP — or Healthy Effective Lifestyle Programming.

Burns said the goal is to look at positive relationships and healthy lifestyles so people can overcome a lot of problems through the positive supports in their lives.

This year’s walk is about more than just raising awareness about abuse and family violence. It’s also about a transition to taking a proactive approach to preventing violence.

Conrad Burns, left, accompanied by Cory Meredith, departs Friday to head out on his last walk to Saskatoon. Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald.

Still, the journey is bittersweet.

“It’s sad because hundreds of people have walked with me and we’ve done thousands and thousands of miles in our shoes. We’ve gone from walking from Prince Albert to walking across Canada,” Burns said.

“It made you realize that every facet of life has been affected by abuse. One in four women have been affected by abuse, and one in five men.”

Last year, Burns began working with SHARE as a teacher for the way to work program.

“Working with these students has made me realize what we need to work on — realizing the positive in ourselves and around ourselves, and continuing to work on that step by step and trying to help a person grow to their own potential,” he said.

“We have to find ways of overcoming it. How do we overcome that abuse? How do we heal from it so we can have those positive relationships?”

“How can we develop those relationships in our life if we’re not confident in who we are?  It’s about breaking the cycles in ourselves, our relationships and our family lives.”