In 1989, a scandal erupted over allegations of widespread abuse of youth at Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s. Since that time, numerous cases of abuse have been reported and there are an untold number of cases that have been settled silently, outside of court. Newfoundland and Labrador still feels the wounds caused by what has now become a global crisis. Most provinces and indigenous communities elsewhere in Canada have their own horror stories of abuse. First Nations, Innu and Métis children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools over much of the last century and there are an estimated 80,000 survivors of these schools alive today. Even now, the intergenerational trauma of such a tragedy is ongoing and persistent.
Gemma Hickey is an advocate of many causes. She is also a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Based on her experience and extensive research, she founded Pathways in order to address the gaps in services for men and women who have experienced abuse within religious institutions. The organization was incorporated in December of 2013 and launched successfully in November of 2014 at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s.
As part of her physical and spiritual journey of recovery, Gemma will walk across the island, beginning in Port aux Basques and ending at the Mount Cashel Memorial in St. John’s. This walk is in the timeless tradition of walks of hope that lead to social change.
Although Mount Cashel is just one example of the rampant abuse that occurred within religious institutions, it is the tragedy that precipitated a turning point in awareness of this form of abuse. By ending the walk at this site, Gemma will pay respects to the many young men who made a tragic journey from their homes to the orphanage.
There will be a strong Labrador and aboriginal dimension to Hope Walk, reflecting the toll that indigenous communities have experienced within religious run institutions and at the hands of abusive clergy.
The Hope Walk Project will run from July 2nd to August 2nd, 2015. The majority of the project is dedicated to planning the route and engaging partners along the way. This period will also be focused on fundraising and volunteer recruitment.
Donations may be made here:
Provincial Walk: Hope Walk will exceed 900 kilometres. Gemma will walk 30 kilometres for 30 days. She has transformed herself physically for the walk losing over 75 pounds. Under the mentorship of renowned explorer, TA Loeffler, she has been training every day to build leg strength, endurance and flexibility. TA is leading a team of professional trainers who have volunteered their time to support this project.
A tentative schedule of the communities/areas we should be passing by/through during Hope Walk 2015. If you’re in the area, take a look for Gemma to cheer her on!
03-Jul Tompkins/South Branch
04-Jul River Brook
06-Jul St. George’s/Mattis Point …
07-Jul Stephenville/Gallants – NOTE 10 am – Event with Bay St. George Women’s Centre, Stephenville Lions’ Club, 9 Woodland Street
08-Jul Georges Lake
10-Jul Corner Brook/Summerside/Humber Village
11-Jul Pasadena/Pynn’s Brook/Deer Lake
14-Jul Bayside/Scab Cove
16-Jul South Wood/Springdale
17-Jul Springdale/South Brook
20-Jul Grand Falls/Badger/Miller Town/Buchans
21-Jul Bishops Falls/Norris Arm/Botwood
26-Jul Port Blanford/Clarenville
29-Jul Random Island/Goobies/Arnold’s Cove
30-Jul Whitborne/Bay Roberts/Harbour Grace
02-Aug Mount Cashel
Music Video: Given that music is an effective way to bring people together, Gemma invited celebrated singer/songwriter Pamela Morgan to write a song as an anthem for Pathways. The video was produced by Nine Island Productions and featured a long list of famous Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are passionate about this cause. See link below:
Public Service Announcement: In order to make Hope Walk successful, Gemma has begun the process of engaging people through media interviews, speaking engagements and social media. In such a short time, she has already built a strong base of followers throughout the province. The PSA was produced by First Focus Productions and provides a snapshot of why such a journey is important and how much preparation it takes to make it happen. See link below:
Documentary Film: Well-known filmmaker Latonia Hartery will begin chronicling Gemma’s journey. The documentary will provide an overview of the issues surrounding this type of abuse within a Newfoundland and Labrador context. When completed it will be used as an educational resource for the province and beyond.
Outreach: In order to increase visibility, promote healing and raise awareness, there will be coordinated stops along the way. This will include Gemma meeting with survivors and networking with relevant non-profits and community leaders throughout the duration of the walk. She will also make a special trip to the Connaigre Peninsula to meet with supporters in the Mi’kmaq community of Conne River. High profile people from the province will be invited to walk with her along short sections of the Trans Canada Highway; among them will be church officials.
Fundraising: Distinguished artist Gerry Squires is donating a painting of a wooded path to be reprinted on shirts that will be for sale through Living Planet, a shop located in downtown St. John’s. Gemma will also be inviting local businesses to contribute through exciting sponsorship opportunities and planning special events prior to the walk.