Thursday, September 30, 2021

Calls for reflection on the past, commitment for the future mark the arrival of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation


Prince Rupert's Cenotaph at the Courthouse has been the
community space for commemoration of those who
survived the Residential School system and those who never came home

“Today, I invite everyone across the country to recognize and observe the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day to reflect on the painful and lasting impacts of residential schools in Canada, and to honour survivors, their families, and their communities. It is also a day to remember the many children who never returned home, and an opportunity for us all to learn more, and to affirm the need for reconciliation and commit ourselves to the work ahead." -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 

The First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has been marked by statements and calls for Canadians to use September 30th to learn more of the history of the residential school system and listen to the stories of the survivors and their families.

The Prime Minister marking the day first on Wednesday with a sunset ceremony on Parliament Hill to commemorate survivors and those who never returned to their families and communities.

For today, the Prime Minister's statement has a focus on the momentum of Orange Shirt Day and the story of Phyllis Webstad, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the ongoing efforts in locating unmarked graves at former residential school sites.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation recognizes that at least 150,000 Indigenous children from across the country were forcibly separated from their families and their communities. Children were brought to residential schools where too many experienced abuse and were removed from their cultures, languages, and traditions. This federal day builds on the momentum of Orange Shirt Day, which was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad and chosen by Indigenous peoples to remember the legacy of residential schools and promote the path of reconciliation. 

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was established through legislation passed earlier this spring, and is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 80. As part of commemorations for this historic day, I was honoured to participate in a sunset ceremony to commemorate survivors and those who never returned to their families and communities, as the Peace Tower and other buildings near Parliament Hill were illuminated in orange, and a newly commissioned Survivors’ Flag from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation was raised. 

This year, the tragic locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country has reminded us of not only the impacts of colonialism and the harsh realities of our collective past, but also the work that is paramount to advancing reconciliation in Canada. Today, we also recognize the harms, injustices, and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – because of the residential school system, systemic racism, and the discrimination that persists in our society. We must all learn about the history and legacy of residential schools. It’s only by facing these hard truths, and righting these wrongs, that we can move forward together toward a more positive, fair, and better future. 

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about the history of residential schools in Canada, listen to the stories of survivors and their families, and reflect on how each of us can play a part in the journey of reconciliation. I also encourage everyone to wear an orange shirt today to help spread awareness, because every child matters.”

The Full statement from the Government of Canada can be explored here.

A message from Queen Elizabeth II is also relayed to Canadians through Governor General Mary Simon

Premier John Horgan and Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation issued a joint statement yesterday, the pair also first paying tribute to Orange Shirt Day founder  Phyllis Webstad

“Orange Shirt Day would not exist without the strength and courage of the campaign’s founder, Phyllis Webstad. Her story of residential school survival, as well as those shared by Vancouver Island advocate Eddy Charlie and so many others, sparked a national conversation on the true history of this country."

They followed the tribute to the tireless efforts of Ms. Webstad with comments on the occasion of the First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“This year, Sept. 30 is also a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The new federal statutory day responds to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action for a national day to honour those affected by residential schools. 

We will consult with Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities over the coming months on the best and most respectful ways to commemorate Sept. 30 here in B.C. We will also bring the business community, employers and labour groups into the conversation, so that they can participate in the planning in meaningful ways. While we continue this engagement with the aim of formally recognizing this important day in B.C. in the future, this year, public service workplaces will be observing the statutory day of remembrance and reflection. 

Public commemoration of our shared history is just one of many steps we can take in our work to advance reconciliation. We must also face the truth of the harms perpetrated by colonial policies and the residential school system. As government, we will work to deconstruct the colonial systems that are still in place and continue to harm Indigenous peoples. We owe this to the future generations. “We encourage every British Columbian to wear an orange shirt to proclaim that every child matters, and that we are all committed to working together with Indigenous peoples to create a better future for all of our children, for the province and for the entire country.”

You can review the full text of the Provincial statement here.

More themes towards the First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation are being shared by the Provincial government through their Social Media streams.

As we noted earlier this week, North Coast Regional District also commemorated the occasion of this First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The North Coast Regional District (NCRD) applauds the federal and provincial governments for establishing this statutory holiday to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis Survivors and their families and communities to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process. 

 The NCRD continues to build strong and meaningful relationships with its First Nations partners and is fully committed to truth and reconciliation. With this in mind, the Board has resolved to formally acknowledge September 30th as a day for truth and reconciliation throughout the region.

The full statement from Regional District can be reviewed here.

In Prince Rupert, Mayor Lee Brain has shared a Facebook message from Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Today marks the beginning of true acknowledgment of atrocities committed across the country & over the course of history. And now with 6509 lost children being found thus far & counting, and many more to still yet to be found & returned home, this bears an opportunity to also pay our respects & grieve collectively. 

 We as a society need to continue to find a better way forward, beyond the phases of accountability & justice from all levels of government. And I firmly believe that we do so in loving relationship with one another, our communities, our fellow neighbors, and especially, ourselves. -- Prince Rupert Councillor Reid Skelton Morven

As we come across more statements and notes of observation, we'll update this archive with further links of reflection on the day

Statement from North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice

Northern Health -- Phyllis' Story

Statement from Coast Mountain College 

Statement from Prince Rupert Port Authority

School District 52 -- Reconciliation Walks

BCTF Statment

Statement from Union of BC Indian Chiefs

Statement from Assembly of First Nations

Some Resources for the Day

National Film Board

CBC Indigenous

Aboriginal People's Television Network

Coverage of events across the province and nation can be reviewed from our Ottawa Observations feature from our political blog D'Arcy McGee

Through the week, we've highlighted some of the work that has been done locally towards observing this day, you can explore those themes from our item of Monday

Included in our piece from this week are a number of links towards further study on the themes we are observing today, those contributions make for a good starting point to explore a harmful past and begin the discussion for our shared future.

You can review all of the coverage of events across the Northwest from our archive page here.

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