The National Day Of Truth and Reconciliation: A Day of Remembrance and Shame
Today, Saturday, September 30, 2023, is recognized as The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It was first known as Orange Shirt Day, beginning in 2013. Today is the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
Today, we pause to honour the Indigenous children taken away from their homes and families through the Residential “School” System. It is a day to raise awareness of the horrific experiences many Indigenous people had in Residential “Schools,” as well as the legacy of this system. It is a day to recognize historic harms and the intergenerational impacts and ongoing violence Indigenous communities continue to face.
It became a federal holiday in 2021 to enact Call to Action#80 of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Call 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.”
Beginning in the 1800s and extending more than most of the 20th century, more than 150,000 children from hundreds of indigenous communities across Canada were forcibly taken from their parents by the government of Canada and sent to what were known as Residential Schools.
Over time, history has revealed many disturbing truths about Residential Schools and the horrific treatment of innocent young children. Survivors recall being beaten and strapped; some students were shackled to their beds; some had needles shoved in their tongues for speaking their native languages. These abuses, including overcrowding, poor sanitation and severely inadequate food and health care, resulted in a shockingly high death toll for these children.
Many of these sad truths have only recently come to light. The system began in 1863 and expanded when Canada passed the 1876 Indian Act. Children were forced to cut long hair and banned from speaking their languages; some were abused sexually. Estimates are that upwards of 6,000 children are believed to have died, with many buried in unmarked graves.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation addresses the healing and shame of these atrocities in Residential Schools. This act has been called the cultural genocide of Canada’s native peoples.
Please take a moment to remember these unfortunate and innocent children and the shameful acts perpetrated by the Canadian government through the residential school program.