Blog: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022
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In 2021, September 30th officially became the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada and became a day to remember those who have been and continue to be harmed by the impacts of residential schools. This blog explores the history and significance residential schools have had, and continue to have on Indigenous Peoples, and ways for individuals to participate in the ongoing healing and reconciliation process that is the focus of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
By Mariska Konnik, ESPC Volunteer
In June of 2021, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-5 which established September 30th to be a federal statutory holiday, known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. (1) This was done as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action which “call[s] upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal Peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honor Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” (2) The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honors the Survivors, as well as the children who never returned home from residential schools. (3) Recognizing and acknowledging the tragic history and ongoing impacts of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples is essential to the reconciliation process. (3) Additionally, September 30 is recognized as Orange Shirt Day which was created as a grassroots campaign by Phyllis Webstad and based on her own experiences of attending the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school near Williams Lake, BC. (1) It is rooted in the story of her first day at the school in which she put on a bright orange shirt that she compared to her feelings of starting a new school – bright and exciting. (4) However, upon her arrival at St. Joseph, she was stripped of her clothes and never saw that orange shirt again. (4) The orange shirt has since become a symbol used to represent the stripping away of culture, freedom, and self-esteem that has been, and continues to be, experienced by Indigenous children over many generations. (3)
Ways to Participate in the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
This September 30th, there are a variety of opportunities for individuals to participate and commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in order to support Indigenous Peoples and participate in the ongoing healing process.
Wear an Orange Shirt
Start off by wearing an orange shirt. The Orange Shirt Society encourages people to do so in order to raise awareness and honor the tragic history of residential schools and the lasting impacts they have had on Indigenous Peoples. (5) Orange shirts can be purchased through local Indigenous designers, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s (NCTR) website, (5) and through MacEwan University and the University of Alberta, both of which donate the proceeds to their Indigenous programs.
Read the TRC Calls to Action
Another option to honor the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is by reading and further educating yourself on the histories of Indigenous Peoples and their stories. The NCTR gives survivors and their families the opportunity to request their school records and statements to the TRC in order to preserve the memory and legacy of the residential school system. (5) There are also a variety of books written by Indigenous authors that allow for a better understanding of the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in residential schools. Cree author David A. Robertson has created a list of 48 books by Indigenous authors that can be used as an informative resource this upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Day. (5) Finally, reading through and recognizing the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action is a vital step individuals can take to engage in this day of healing and reconciliation. By going through them, we can recognize their importance and find ways to incorporate and support them in our lives, and encourage others to do the same. CBC has created an interactive website that includes all 94 Calls to Action, and a summary of the progress of each action to date that can be found here.
Take a Free Course
Another additional way to become further educated on Indigenous Peoples and their histories is by enrolling in the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course that they offer regardless of whether you are a student or not. It explores the rich histories of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing challenges they continue to face within Canada. (5) You can sign up for free, choose to pay a small fee for a certificate of completion or register for the credit class if you are attending the University of Alberta here.
Participate in an Indigenous-Run Event
A great event taking place locally in Edmonton this year is this Orange Shirt Day Run/Walk Every Child Matters event that will be taking place on September 30th in Kinsmen Park. There are three different events that you can participate in – the 2.15km Kids Race, the 5km Run & Walk, and the 10km Run & Walk. (6) The event will be raising funds to donate to Orangeshirtday.org, Bear Clan Patrol YEG, and Indigenous Youth Sports Scholarships. More information about the event can be found here and on their instagram page. You can register for the event here!
Finally, there are a variety of organizations you can donate to this Truth and Reconciliation Day that aim to raise awareness about the impact of residential schools or provide support and assistance to the survivors, their families, and Indigenous communities. (5) Here are a few you can look into:
Indian Residential School Survivors Society
Na-mi-quai-ni-mak Community Support Fund
Native Women’s Association of Canada
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day of recognition of utmost importance within Canada and is essential on the path to reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples and their communities. With this discussion of healing, it is important to note that there is support available to anyone who has been directly or indirectly impacted by residential schools. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066 and the 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line also provides crisis services and emotional support through 1-866-925-4419.
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Mariska Konnik is a recent graduate from the University of Alberta with a BA in Criminology. She has a passion for social justice and hopes to assist individuals within the Edmonton community by sharing information and resources. She hopes to become a lawyer to continue her passion for social justice.
- British Columbia. (August 11, 2022). National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. British Columbia. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/indigenous-people/national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Government of British Columbia. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf
- Government of Canada. (August 30, 2022). National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html
- Orange Shirt Society. (n/d). PHYLLIS’ STORY: the original orange shirt. Orangeshirtday.org. https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html
- CBC Life. (September 28, 2021). Ways to participate in the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/life/culture/ways-to-participate-in-the-national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation-1.6192414
- Indigenous Runner. (2022). Every Child Matters. Indigenous Runner. https://www.indigenousrunner.com