Ceremony at CFB Halifax marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Hon Capt (N) Elder Debbie Eisan leads a smudging ceremony at CFB Halifax on September 29 ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.

Ceremony at CFB Halifax marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

By Joanie Veitch,
Trident Staff

More than 50 members of the local Defence Team gathered at Admiralty Garden on September 29 to take part in a smudging ceremony before morning colours at CFB Halifax.

The Every Child Matters flag-raising was accentuated by the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy playing “O Canada” and a performance by the drum group Mothers of Nokomis.

The event was hosted by the Atlantic Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (ADAAG), along with the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre, in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.

Hon Capt(N) Navy Elder Debbie Eisan, a member of both ADAAG and the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, gave a brief explanation on the tradition of the smudge and the significance of the four sacred medicines — tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar — in purifying the body by cleansing negative thoughts and promoting healing.

She said it was good to see such support — both in the number of people who came to take part in the ceremony and that so many were wearing orange shirts in recognition of residential school survivors, and the many who did not return home.

Now Honorary Captain of HMCS Margaret Brooke, Hon Capt(N) Eisan retired at the rank of Chief Petty Officer Second Class after spending 36 years in the Royal Canadian Navy.

“This is a very special day, not only for us, but for everyone. It’s about truth and reconciliation. The more I work with the Navy here on the East Coast, the more I see the true meaning of truth and reconciliation come to fruition. It’s not just something that you do, it comes from your heart,” she said.

Following the smudging ceremony and prayer, the drum group Mothers of Nokomis performed the Honour Song before the Every Child Matters flag was raised during morning colours. The flag was raised once again during morning colours on September 30.

Both Rear-Admiral Brian Santarpia, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, and Chief Petty Officer First Class Alena Mondelli, Formation Chief for Maritime Forces Atlantic, attended the event.

“It’s so important for us to be here… sharing this time together and recognizing the importance of this day,” said RAdm Santarpia.

CPO1 Mondelli echoed that sentiment, saying the ceremony offers an opportunity “to reflect on the impact of residential schools” across the country, including on many members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Petty Officer 1st Class (PO1) Cheyanne Delaronde, a member of ADAAG and a Human Resources Administrator at CFB Halifax, was one of the organizers of the event. Both of her grandmothers attended residential schools and her mother was taken from her family home in the Sixties Scoop, the period from the mid 1960s to the mid 1980s that saw thousands of Indigenous children placed in foster care and put up for adoption outside of their community.

After the ceremony PO1 Delaronde reflected on the changes she’s seen in people’s attitudes and desire to learn more, especially in the past year.

“Truth and reconciliation is about awareness. I look around and I see people here today to honour and acknowledge that this happened, and that it matters. That has a lot of meaning for me,” she said.

Halifax civic events in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 were postponed, due to ongoing post-storm cleanup and challenges faced by many people affected by post-tropical storm Fiona.