For the first time, September 30th is a federal statutory holiday for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Also known as Orange Shirt Day, September 30th is an opportunity for Canadians to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools and to reflect on Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land. Creating a statutory day of remembrance such as this one was one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
As Canada grapples with the discovery of the bodies of more than 1,300 Indigenous children on the grounds of so-called Residential Schools across the country, Canada must commit as a nation to taking real steps to address Canada’s past atrocities and to advance our current relationships with Indigenous Peoples.
The Society calls on the government to swiftly enact the 94 Calls to Action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The families who lost children to Residential Schools deserve justice and the people living on reserves deserve access to clean drinking water, education, safe housing and food security.
While not all members have been granted the day off work, the Society encourages all members to use their personal time to reflect on reconciliation. To do so, there are a number of resources provided at the end of this article that are intended for non-Indigenous people who want to learn more about issues related to reconciliation.
On Wednesday, September 29, Society President Michelle Johnston led an event for the union’s elected leaders and staff. In her remarks, Johnston spoke about the intergenerational trauma of residential schools. “It is important to remind ourselves that the effects of residential schools is, and will continue to be, felt for generations,” said Johnston. “Many survivors continue to carry the trauma of their experiences with them, Parents who had their children taken from them, children taken from their families, the children of survivors, communities as a whole, all have been impacted by residential schools.”
“We observe Orange Shirt day, not only as a way to honour the children who lost their lives in a residential school, but also to acknowledge survivors and provide them with an opportunity heal.”
Recognizing Aboriginal Legal Services Members
The Society also recognizes the work of members who work at Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS), a clinic that provides Indigenous-controlled and culturally-based justice alternatives to Indigenous people in contact with the justice system. ALS members see firsthand how intergenerational traumas wrought by colonialism manifest in consequences for Indigenous people today. ALS members work tirelessly to mitigate the impacts of that trauma. It is difficult, emotionally challenging work and the Society is grateful for their contributions toward Indigenous justice.
- OFL Land Acknowledgements & Why we do them - Daniel Stevens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijd1NQt7WCc
- TVO Doc – What is reconciliation? Indigenous educators have their say - Pam Palmater & Eddy Robison: https://youtu.be/hE_08EQbWRI
- TVO interview – The Indian Act explained – Bob Joseph: https://youtu.be/OhBrq7Ez-rQ
Live Event on September 30
- University of Toronto Online Event (not interactive but it is live and open to the public), 1 hour in length: https://harthouse.ca/events/orange-shirt-day-2021
The National Center for Truth and Reconciliation is a great place to start for information about the TRC report, findings, legislation, and historical documentation.
- History of residential schools: https://nctr.ca/education/teaching-resources/residential-school-history/
- Reports section contains the Truth and Reconciliation Report - https://nctr.ca/records/reports/
Indigenous Authors writing about Indigenous history, events, colonialism
- The Inconvenient Indian – Thomas King
- Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese
- Seven Fallen Feathers – Tanya Talaga
- CBC – Missing and Murdered – Finding Cleo: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/findingcleo/click-here-to-listen-to-missing-murdered-finding-cleo-1.4557887
- CBC – Telling our Twisted Histories: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/cbc-podcasts/906-telling-our-twisted-histories
Indigenous Awareness Training, October 14
- First Peoples Group is providing a free training session on Indigenous Awareness. This is available through the Society's membership in the Canadian Nuclear Association. All Society members are welcome to attend but must do so on their own time or with the permission of their manager. This session runs from 10AM to 12:30PM. Click here for full details and registration.