National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
September 30, 2021, is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The goal of today is to honour and commemorate the survivors and lost children of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.
Through the residential school system, the Canadian government attempted to assimilate Indigenous Peoples into western culture. They did this by forcibly removing Indigenous children from their homes and putting them in residential schools where children were severely abused. Indigenous children were not allowed to speak their language or practice any cultural traditions and would face horrific consequences if these rules were broken. The first residential school opened in the 1830s, and it was not until 1996 when the last residential school closed. For over a century, this horrible institution attempted to assimilate Indigenous children into the Euro-centric culture. It is unfathomable that residential schools were still operating just a few years before the turn of the millennium.
In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was created to capture residential school survivors’ stories during their time in residential schools and the impact that followed leaving the institution. The TRC established a report in 2015 called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, which outlines ninety-four Calls to Action to correct the effects that residential schools have left on the Indigenous population in Canada. The ninety-four Calls to Action are divided into specific sections: child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice.
To be effective allies, what can we, as non-Indigenous Canadians, do? We can listen to the stories from residential school survivors, we can wear orange to show our solidarity, we can donate to Indigenous-led causes, and we can fight to help achieve at least one of the 94 calls to action. We can continue to educate ourselves on Indigenous history and understand the implications left on Indigenous Peoples and communities due to the actions of the Canadian government. We need to be cognizant that residential school survivors and their families may not want to or feel safe to share their stories about the residential school system or possibly even the generational trauma associated with it. This provides more reason why non-Indigenous Canadians need to educate themselves on the impact of colonialism and the residential school system.
What also needs to be understood about today is that although it is a day to commemorate the survivors of residential schools, it is a day to mourn the lost lives. Additionally, it needs to be recognized that today is not the only day to learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples. Today is also not the only day to commemorate and honour survivors of residential schools and lost lives. This should be a continuous process that all Canadians should be doing in their daily lives.
The 94 Calls to Action is a great place to start for Canadians to understand the implications residential schools have left on Indigenous communities. Additionally, the TRC’s website has excellent videos that can educate non-Indigenous Canadians.
Author: D.R. (FCO Placement Student)