Howard McGillvery, 55, hitchhikes back to the town of St Paul, after spending the night in Saddle Lake, Alberta [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

This is the first in a five-part series in which Al Jazeera explores racism and reconciliation in rural Canada, unearthing stories of a traumatic past and a troubled present.

St Paul, Alberta, Canada – A map of embedded sorrow seems to crisscross the weary face of 55-year-old Howard McGillvery. But when he smiles – a close to toothless grin – there is a warmth in his dark brown eyes; a sparkling of optimism and unpretentiousness that draws people to him.

He is known in the town of St Paul, Alberta, as the leader of the “Back Streeters”- a name the homeless

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