Burnaby’s first reconciliation crosswalk: City supports student-led efforts

Last updated: June 20, 2022

The City of Burnaby has partnered with the Burnaby School District to support the efforts of a Grade 6/7 class at Westridge Elementary, who came up with the idea to put reconciliation into action through the installation of a new crosswalk near their school, designed by a local Indigenous artist.

Coast Salish artist Atheana Picha collaborated with the City and school, listening to the students' ideas and working with them and sharing her teachings. Her resulting creation is a meaningful design featuring Thunderbirds mirroring each other that was unveiled on June 20 in advance of National Indigenous Peoples Day in a ceremony at the school. It will be installed later this summer where Drummond’s Walk Urban Trail crosses Union Street, a path that many students use every day. 

“It is inspiring to see young people take a leadership role in our community, especially when it comes to reconciliation,” said Mayor Mike Hurley. “Thanks to the efforts of the Westridge Elementary School class, and the talents of Atheana Picha, Burnaby will soon have a beautiful piece of public art which will also serve as a poignant reminder of the work we must all do to support reconciliation in our community.”

“One of the things that is so powerful about this project is that the students took their learnings about Truth and Reconciliation and answered the Calls to Action in a way that is meaningful to them, is highly visible and invites the entire community to reflect on their own path to reconciliation,” said Burnaby Board of Education Chair Jen Mezei. “As trustees, we are grateful to the City and artist, and incredibly proud of the work happening in our schools to build understanding, awareness and strengthen the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”

The students in Audrey Venner’s Grade 6/7 class initiated the idea to create a reconciliation-themed crosswalk in Burnaby after investigating earlier this year the 94 'Calls to Action,' as issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Through their work, the students decided to act on Call #82, which calls upon communities to "install a publicly accessible, highly visible residential Schools Monument [...] to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities."

The class collaborated with the District’s Indigenous Education Department and approached the City of Burnaby, who helped connect the school with Picha, a member of Kwantlen First Nation. 

“It was exciting to work with these students because they were so interested and involved in reconciliation, and they are so motivated to see people working for the future together – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” said Atheana Picha. “The thunderbird is a symbol that has links with many Indigenous cultures and is a powerful, brave creature. I wanted this design to represent a feeling of moving forward in a bold and positive way.”

The City is contributing up to $20,000 to facilitate the installation of the crosswalk on City property. The Westridge class also received a $750 grant from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to support the project.

The reconciliation crosswalk builds on the City’s efforts to advance reconciliation in Burnaby, which include initiating government-to-government relationships with local First Nations, promoting National Indigenous Peoples Day and Orange Shirt Day, and prioritizing Indigenous perspectives at the Burnaby Village Museum and the Burnaby Art Gallery.

One of the goals of the Burnaby Board of Education’s Strategic Plan is to embed Indigenous perspectives and knowledge across the Burnaby School District. More information about projects within schools and learning through Indigenous teachings can be found here.

Image: Crosswalk design by Atheana Picha

Learn More: Indigenous Peoples and Reconciliation

Media Contacts:
Chris Bryan
City of Burnaby
Manager, Public Affairs
Public Affairs Office
604-570-3616 | [email protected]

Dana Bales 
Burnaby School District
Managing Director, Communications & Community Engagement
604-296-6900 Ext. 661110 | [email protected]

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