09/17/2013 05:38 EDT | Updated 11/17/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. Reconciliation Week Event Kicks Off In Vancouver's False Creek Harbour


VANCOUVER - Hundreds of people in First Nations canoes, dragon boats, kayaks and other vessels have paddled down Vancouver's False Creek to mark the start of Reconciliation Week in B.C.

Everyone was invited to join the cedar, dugout canoes for the traditional ceremony, which is part of the Truth and Reconciliation events taking place in the city.

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad paddled alongside First Nations members.

Rustad says the canoe trip is especially significant, and acknowledges the tragedy of Indian residential schools.

The week is organized by Reconciliation Canada, which was established by the Indian Residential School Survivor's Society.

For more than 120 years, aboriginal children were sent to the government-run schools, where they were abused and stripped of their language and culture.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is hearing statements in several cities, including Vancouver, from former students and their families, and cultural performances are part of the event, which will wrap up with a walk on Sunday.

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