‘I’m doing this for healing’: Prince Albert woman walking from her former residential school to Ottawa

A Prince Albert, Sask., woman is beginning her journey to healing by walking from her former residential school to Ottawa.

Patricia Ballantyne began her “Walk of Sorrow” Saturday morning.

“I’m doing this for healing, for residential school survivors, our ancestors, our family and our children that were found in Kamloops,” she told CTV News while already on her walk.

Ballantyne attended Prince Albert Indian Residential School from 1978 to 1987.

Her mother passed away early in her childhood and she was placed into foster care under the protection of her family.She left for a residential school at the age of four.

“The agent had put me on the list after my mom passed away and by the time I was of age, they came in and said that I have to go in there because I was a foster child,” Ballantyne said.

Ballantyne was in the care of her family and said she would have rather stayed with them, but it wasn’t an option.

Ballantyne said her dad didn't want to let her go, but "they said ‘since she already registered we have to. If you refuse, we are going to have to think about taking the other kids.’”

The recent discovery of the bodies of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School struck a chord with her.

“It hit me hard. It just brought back all the memories that happened to me at the residence and thinking how small and how young those children were and how they weren’t able to protect themselves.”

When she arrives in Ottawa, she'll have a message for parliament.

“We need policies changed, child family policies, regulations and that to be changed because we still have the same policies that we had in the residential school,” said Ballantyne.

She says Child and Family Services is failing Indigenous people and she wants to help.

Ballantyne hopes to make it all the way to Melfort in her first day walking and plans to pass through Regina. She has no plans to stop by Saskatoon.

“I thought we would hit the reserves on this side since there are so many survivors on the reserves,” Ballantyne said. “I’m hoping that we can pick up people along the way that will join us.”

She is encouraging people to come and join her on the Walk of Sorrow, and her niece Sasha Michel joined the walk for the first leg on Saturday.

“We are in this together and we will conquer anything that comes our way.”

The Walk of Sorrow can be tracked on a Facebook group where Ballantyne has already posted videos and photos.

She’s also started a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for supplies, food, fuel and water for her journey.

If you are a residential school survivor and in need of support, please reach out to the IRS Survivor Support Workers Program in Saskatoon.