'Walk of Sorrow': Residential school survivor walking from Saskatchewan to Ottawa with a message

A residential school survivor is on a journey of healing to send a message across the country, walking from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to Ottawa.

When Patricia Ballantyne heard about the remains of 215 Indigenous children found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., she felt she had to do something.

"It just hit hard; I had this dreadful, sorrowful feeling," said Ballantyne.

She’s a residential school survivor.

"After that news, everything that I had buried down had come flooding up."

Ballantyne was a student at the former Prince Albert Indian Residential School from 1978 to 1987.

"I was four and a half years old when I was taken from my parents."

Leaving on June 5, she is now on a nearly 3,000-kilometre journey, walking from the site of the former school in Saskatchewan to Ottawa.

"People said, 'You’re not walking just for yourself; you’re walking for everybody that can’t walk,'" Ballantyne tells CTV News Ottawa.

Joined by a group of other survivors and supporters, she hopes to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders, including the Catholic Church, once they arrive in Ottawa at the end of July.

"I want them to come sit with me, and listen to me."

Ballantyne says she also wants to raise awareness about the policies of children and families.

"The system is still tearing us apart, families apart; they’re telling us, native people how we can raise our kids and can’t raise our kids on the reserves."

The group is taking turns walking, while a convoy of support vehicles follows.  Ballantyne says they cover about 30 km to 60 km a day. On Wednesday, they were nearing Kenora, Ont.

The group stops along the way to share their experience and attend ceremonies.

"I’m a survivor, along with all of my siblings. It’s about healing, it’s about crying, it’s about praying," says Joseph Maud, who is a part of the group.

Sunrise Halkect is walking a portion of the route in support.

"I was in foster care until age 11, and I had a horrible experience; my mother was in residential schools, my grandmother was in residential schools, and I noticed we had a lot of inter-generational trauma."

"Walk of Sorrow" has a GoFundMe page, raising money to cover travel expenses during the walk.  You can also follow their progress on Facebook.

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.