National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Part 1 of 3

accountability education reconciliation truth Sep 28, 2021

PREFACE:

With the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation right around the corner, it is hard for me to find the right words. This is a time that evokes so much emotion, not only as a partner and mother to an Indigenous man and child, but as a human being. Having numerous loved ones personally affected by atrocities of residential schools and seeing the first-hand consequences of colonial action, I know that this day is so necessary for healing and to move towards authentic reconciliation. However, we should not need to have loved ones affected or witness the damages first-hand for us to know that this day is necessary.

So many Canadians and non-indigenous people remain unaware to the pain, loss, and suffering that has taken place on this land. This week, and long after, I urge fellow non-indigenous people of Canada to listen to the experiences of residential school survivors, to educate yourselves on the history of the land you inhabit, and to acknowledge the damages done by colonialism. Becoming aware of these truths might elicit guilt, shame, embarrassment, and regret, but acknowledgment is necessary in moving forward.

Over the next few days, I will author a series of eLeadership Academy blog posts about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. These posts will cover what exactly this day is, why this day is necessary, and how non-indigenous people can move forward in aiding reconciliation during this day and far beyond.

NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION:

What is it?

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a new Canadian statutory holiday of remembrance to ensure the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.”[1] September 30, 2021, (formerly known as Orange Shirt Day) will mark the first of many in which people are invited to participate in quiet reflection on the pain, loss, and suffering inflicted on the Indigenous people of Turtle Island (the land mass now known as North America).

Before I continue, I would like to note that the use of “Aboriginal,” “Indigenous,” “First Nation,” or “Indian” in this piece or future pieces will reflect that of the work being examined. I acknowledge that individuals and communities may differ in their use of terminology, so in the case I’m discussing a particular article or book I will follow the terminology used in that source. Otherwise, I will use “Indigenous,” as this is a term inclusive of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.

I would also like to acknowledge that there are 630 First Nations communities within Canada’s borders, as well as various Métis and Inuit communities, each with their own unique culture and experiences.[2] For the purpose of this article, the term Indigenous will encompass all Indigenous communities and Nations that have deep roots to this land since time immemorial, while also acknowledging that each of these Nations and communities are sovereign in their own right.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was first proposed in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).[3] The TRC was established to provide those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system an opportunity to share their stories and experiences.”[4] In the TRCs final report presented to and accepted by the Canadian government in 2015, the TRC mentions 94 Calls to Action to further aid reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. You can view the full Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action HERE.

Number 80 of the 94 Calls to Action states, 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.”

Although September 30th will be known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, thus completing number 80 of the 94 Calls to Action, there is still much work to be done. Of the Calls to Action, the vast majority have yet to be fully implemented. So far, only 8 to 13 of the 94 Calls to Action have been successfully completed.[5] Though the journey is far from over, each small step in the right direction is still a step towards a better tomorrow.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day of remembrance, but it is also a day to acknowledge the resilience and strength of residential school survivors, their families, and their communities as they continue on the path to healing. This is a day of solidarity; to reflect, listen, and learn.

Watch this 4-minute video of Chief Robert Joseph sharing his experiences as a residential school survivor and the importance of truth and reconciliation HERE, and join us in our next blog post as we discuss why the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is necessary in moving forward together in solidarity.


Author

Drew Murray - Program Coordinator, eLeadership Academy

I garnered a deeper understanding of reconciliation through a focus on Indigenous Studies in university, as well as lived experiences with my partner and son who are both Indigenous. With this connection, I hope to highlight the importance of reconciliation to non-indigenous people so we can work towards a better future. I would like to thank eLeadership Academy for using platform to focus our attention to importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Sources:

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2021/07/federal-statutory-holiday-national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation.html

[2] Found on Government of Canada website under “Indigenous peoples and communities.” Last modified 2017-12-04.

https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100013785/1529102490303

[3] https://www.thoughtco.com/national-day-for-truth-and-reconciliation-5198918

[4] https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1450124405592/1529106060525

[5] https://nationalpost.com/news/much-work-remains-on-the-truth-and-reconciliation-commissions-94-calls-to-action