30 September 2021 has been named the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a recognized federal statutory holiday. The University of Victoria and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) are committed to building better and more meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities, and will formally recognize this day by closing for a day of learning and reflection. The University will be honouring the day through a series of in-person and virtual events during the week of September 27.
The recognition of this day is in response to the 80th call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Calls to Action” report released in 2015. It reads, “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour 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”. September 30th was chosen as it is also “Orange Shirt Day”, a movement inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad who had her beloved orange shirt taken away when she was taken to the Mission Residential School. The day was chosen as it is the time of year when children would be taken away from their homes and families and placed in Residential Schools.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 80 not only called for the establishment of a statutory holiday, but it is also an invitation to Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians to continue to reflect on the legacy and true history of residential schools. This day is set aside to honour all the children who survived residential schools as well as those that did not return. We invite everyone across the country to mark September 30th, Orange Shirt Day, by wearing orange and ‘lighting up’ our communities orange.” - Stephanie Scott, Executive Director, NCTR.
ONC recognizes September 30 as a time to learn and reflect about the impacts of Residential Schools. With the initial discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School in May of this year and with the number of graves continuing to rise with further investigation at other former school locations, it is more important than ever that we continue the conversation around the lasting harm of Residential Schools on Métis, Inuit, and First Nations people. Eleven different schools across Canada and the United States have been searched, and what started with 215 graves in May has now risen to 5,296 graves and counting (including those originally reported in the TRC Report). Canada alone has 139 Residential Schools identified in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, however this does not include schools run by provinces or religious orders.
Some things you may not know about Residential Schools in Canada:
- An estimated 150,000 children were forcibly removed from their homes by Indian agents, religious authorities or the RCMP.
- The main goal of the Residential School System was to separate children from their families and culture in an attempt to assimilate them into western culture. The TRC describes this as cultural genocide.
- Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were rampant and used as punishment.
- Children in Residential Schools were often banned from speaking their languages, and often severely punished if caught speaking them.
- Residential Schools were often extremely overcrowded with inadequate food and health care. This resulted in an inexcusable death toll.
What are some ways you can be a better ally towards Indigenous people and organizations?
- Learn about the Indigenous people whose territory you occupy and have occupied.
- Spread awareness and information to those in your own circles.
- Listen and follow Indigenous leaders doing the work on Indigenous issues.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and work to implement them wherever possible.
- Pressure elected officials to support Indigenous issues and make change.
- Do not demand Indigenous people teach you, but do research yourself.
- Donate to Indigenous people and organizations.
- Show your commitment by wearing orange on September 30th.
- University of Victoria Orange Shirt Day
- Orange Shirt Day Website
- They Came for the Children - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Bill C-5: National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Calls to Action” report
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- University of Victoria 2021 Event