Honouring National Truth and Reconciliation Day

This September 30th, 2021, Canada is observing its first National Truth and Reconciliation Day. In response to Call to Action #80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this day has become a federal statutory holiday to honour the lost lives and Survivors of Canada’s residential schools, as well as their families and communities.

Since 2013, September 30th has been known as Orange Shirt day, a day of reflection recognizing the tragic history and legacy of residential schools. Orange Shirt day was inspired by Survivor Phyllis Webstad’s story, in which she recalls going shopping with her grandmother for her first day of school and picking out an orange shirt. Upon arrival at the residential school, Webstad’s orange shirt - symbolizing a piece of home - was taken away from her.

How can non-Indigenous people contribute in honouring this National Truth and Reconciliation Day?

As thousands of unmarked graves continue to be searched, non-Indigenous Canadians must be mindful of the pain experienced by Indigenous Survivors and their communities.

It is crucial that as settlers, we commit to doing the work in educating ourselves about the history of Canada and the residential school system. We must engage in meaningful dialogue, and take time to reflect upon the harm and intergenerational trauma caused by the legacy of residential schools, which will impact generations of Indigenous communities to come. It is important that we follow the lead of Indigenous community leaders in having this conversation, which must be ongoing past September 30th.

While this list is not exhaustive, here are some ideas to work into honouring this National Truth and Reconciliation Day:

  • Take a moment of silence at 2:15pm (referring to the 215 graves found at Kamloops residential school).
  • Display an orange shirt or orange lights in your window and/or wear an orange shirt to show solidarity.
  • Read the Truth and Reconciliation Reports, which are all available to the public. The reports include stories from Survivors, Calls to Action, and in-depth history about residential schools. Here is a site by CBCNews monitoring the government’s progress on the 94 Calls to Action.
  • Support Indigenous organizations and businesses.

Author: N.C. (FCO Placement Student)