The very first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation arrives on September 30th, 2021, marking the first new statutory holiday in Canada in decades. It’s rightfully a big deal, as it honours the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit victims, survivors, and their families who suffered at the hands of the residential schools.
Aptly described by Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, this federal holiday is “an important step towards reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples across Canada.
As the day approaches, there’s still some confusion about this historic moment. In the spirit of education and reconciliation, we teamed up with the Tsuut’ina Nation and folks at Taza, the largest First Nation development project in North America, to bring you some important facts that you absolutely need to know.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is mostly about two things- honouring the victims of Canada’s residential school system, and educating the public about the systemic issues and generational trauma that Indigenous peoples continue to face to this day.
Orange Shirt Day is a day where all Canadians are encouraged to wear orange shirts, to honour survivors and victims of residential schools. The story of the orange shirt comes from Phyllis Webstad, who at six years old, had her brand new orange shirt taken from her on her first day at residential school. The movement has created allies all across Canada, and the act of wearing an orange shirt shows support for Indigenous people on this day.
Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement is the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history and began in 2007. One of the agreements was the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which we’ll dive into right now.
After being established in 2007, representatives of the TRC travelled for 6 years hearing stories of over 6,500 victims, survivors, and witnesses before submitting their final report. The government supported their work with a financial aid of $72 million.
In addition to commemorating the legacy of residential schools, the holiday is a direct response to one of the 94 recommendations, number 80, proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in their final report in 2015. It should be noted that many of the recommendations have still not been put into practice. One of the most recent recommendations implemented is the continued search for children at Residential Schools in Canada, which was sparked by the discovery of the 215 children buried at the Kamloops Residential School. The number of children found buried across Canada is currently at more than 6000.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was established at the University of Manitoba to archive all collected documents by the TRC. The Centre made its digital archive public in 2015, providing access to all those who wish to know more about the residential school system and other acts of systemic racism.
While the NDTR is observed as a holiday by all federal organizations, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are the only 3 provinces observing Sep 30 as a holiday. All others have left the decision on employers and universities.
That concludes our list folks. We’re so glad we could team up with Taza to bring you this list. Taza is the largest project of its kind, and encourages economic prosperity and a shared vision for the future. Tsuut’ina Nation is uniquely strengthened by the preservation of language, traditional knowledge and lived experiences, and Taza and Tsuut’ina wish to create meaningful partnerships in the hopes of bringing light to the resilience and strength of Indigenous Peoples across the country.
View this post on Instagram
You too can show your support for First Nations in ways as simple as wearing an orange tee, hanging one on your porch, or supporting First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities by donating funds or resources to their local organizations and programs. Another way you can extend your support is by educating yourself and others about Indigenous communities and using your voice to help change skewed perspectives others may have of Indigenous peoples.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line which is also available across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-925-4419.