A walk to remember; 12-year-old N.S. boy walks across province to raise awareness of residential schools

A 12-year-old Nova Scotia Indigenous boy is leading a walk that will take at least six days, and span more than 150 kilometres across the province.

Carrying the weight of a community, Landyn Toney began his journey with one step on Thursday- and plans to take tens of thousands more by the time he's done.

“We’ve been walking for three days now… (Sunday) is going to be our fourth day,” said Landyn, who turned 12 on Friday.

He’s walking the equivalent of nearly four marathons to raise awareness about residential schools, while also raising money along the way.

It’s an issue close to Landyn’s family – his great-grandmother was a residential school survivor.

“Landyn and I were talking to people who had no idea what took place in the residential schools, and we were shocked by that,” says Marsha McClellan, Landyn’s mother.

He began his journey on Canada Day in Bible Hill, N.S., not far from where the Shubenacadie Residential School once stood.

His goal is to walk all the way to his home at Annapolis Valley First Nation – symbolic, as not all First Nations children made it home from residential schools.

“All I think to push myself to go, is I think of the kids from the residential schools,” says Landyn. “They weren’t allowed to take breaks, and they had to run way further than we are right now.”

“We feel the spirits with us, and it’s giving us strength,” adds McClellan.

Strangers have gathered on the overpasses along N.S. highways to cheer him on, providing a jolt of emotional energy on the tiring trip.

“On all of the bridges, there’s a lot of people cheering me on and stuff,” says Landyn. "It makes me happy, it's really cool."

Supporters like 10-year-old Hazley Gehue have also joined in.

“To know there are little babies taken away from their families at a young age, that they shouldn’t have to,” says Gehue. “The kids from the residential schools couldn’t stop and neither will I.”

Landyn has already raised more than $12,000 on his walk, with the goal to donate it somewhere to continue to raise awareness to the issue.

“Yesterday, I was talking to two survivors from residential schools, and they gave me more inspiration for this walk,” says Landyn. “I’m doing it for a good cause, and just to spread the word that I’m trying to make the world a better place.”

A six-person committee that includes Landyn and his mother will decide where to spend the money based on recommendations from both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous groups.