Cape Breton school opens interactive path dedicated to Truth and Reconciliation

A school in Cape Breton has teamed up with First Nations communities to create an interactive path to help teach students and the community more about truth and reconciliation.

There was music, song, speeches and applause as Riverside School in Albert Bridge, N.S. officially opened a two kilometre interactive path in a wooded area next to school grounds.

 “I think it's a great spot for the community to come together,” says Gabriel Ritcey, a grade eight student at Riverside School.

‘The Knowledge Path’ is a space for outdoor learning that couldn't have come at a better time in a world where physical distancing is the norm.

“We wanted a space for kids to feel safe and a space for kids to learn,” says Suzanne Brown, principal at Riverside School.

Community members, teachers and students drummed up the idea in the fall of 2019.

The path is devoted to truth and reconciliation in hopes of engaging the community and educating them about residential schools.

“We created a healing path inside of our path for residential school survivors and elders of the community to come and reflect and educate our school and community,” says Brown.

Stephen Augustine, a hereditary chief and associate vice-president at Cape Breton University says the grand opening of the path couldn't have come at a better time.

“We never knew much about ourselves in the school system. We were indoctrinated to become more like Canadian citizens,” says Augustine.

Augustine says students and teachers are leading by example, by showing reconciliation in action, reaching out to Indigenous people.

“All of the school systems across Canada didn't give much of a history of the indigenous population and what happen to them….the treaties, the land, the land issues, the residential schools… How children were grabbed from the arms of their parents and taken to this school system that was not our own making.”

A section of the path is a part of Nova Scotia's first national healing forest. It's an idea that came about after the Truth and Reconciliation report in 2015.

“It starts off with a sharing circle, then you get deeper into the woods and there's a medicine wheel, and further along there's an outdoor classroom,” says Brown.

Judging by Sunday’s turnout, the path is already a hit in the community.