Manitoba teacher cycling 7,000 km across Canada to raise awareness, funds for reconciliation

A Manitoba teacher is cycling across the country to raise awareness for unmarked graves found at former residential schools, and funds for further reconciliation efforts across Canada.

Liam Haime was finishing his education degree at the University of Manitoba in May when the bodies of 215 children were discovered on the land where the Kamloops Indian Residential School once stood.

Haime, who is Metis, said the horror of the discovery hit him and many other Canadians hard.

“When the news came out in Kamloops, I think me and a lot of other people were searching for some sort of action to take,” Haime said.

He decided to embark on a 7,000-kilometre bicycle ride across the country – a journey he calls the Ride for Reconciliation.

He said the non-profit event is focused on the continued fight for truth and reconciliation for Indigenous people, while raising funds for Indigenous organizations.

“For me, reconciliation is a process, not a destination,” Haime said. “It’s identifying the truths that have gone on and looking at and acknowledging the ugly history that Canada has in regards to Indigenous people. I think we’re starting on that process, but I think we still have a long way to travel.”

Haime set out on the ride on Sept. 7, the first day of school for many Manitobans. He chose this day because he believes education can be a form of healing and a path forward in reconciliation.

“The first part of it is looking at the content that we deliver to our children. We need to stop reproducing the colonial norms, and keep on giving kids the same content,” he said.

He said the Manitoba school curriculum needs to be reworked to offer a more comprehensive education on residential schools.

“If you look at the social studies curriculum within Manitoba, residential schools are only mentioned once and that’s in Grade 11,” he said.

“That begs the question – how can schooling fight for reconciliation when we’re not even identifying the truths, we’re not even bringing these conversations into the classroom?”

The ride started from Haime’s homeland in Winnipeg on Treaty 1 territory. He plans to bike west as far as Penelakut Island in British Columbia. He then plans to head back east to finish in Ottawa. He said the whole journey should take about a month.

He’s on the ride alone, camping along the way. However, he believes he’s joined by many in spirit.

“I have a whole bunch of people behind the door, supporting me. I have the thousands of children who have been found at gravesites who I like to carry with me each day, and I have all the people in my life who have supported me. They’re here to push through with me,” he said.

People can follow Haime’s journey on the ride's Instagram page. There you can also find a link to his GoFundMe page where he is collecting donations for the Ride for Reconciliation. He said 100 per cent of proceeds from the ride will be donated to Indigenous organizations.

For those who are not able to donate, Haime said folks can also commit to educating themselves on Indigenous history, culture and reconciliation.