Canada is marking its third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation today, Saturday, September 30, 2023.
Different organizations, companies, and individuals are marking the day in their own way.
Here’s what the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation means for you and how you can considerately join in the conversation:
What is National Truth and Reconciliation Day?
According to Canadian Heritage, National Truth and Reconciliation Day is a federal statutory holiday that “honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.”
“Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process,” says the Government of Canada department.
It was officially made a holiday on June 3, 2021, shortly after the discovery of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School was made public, leading to a nationwide reckoning, the announcement of more searches at the sites of several other former residential schools, and a deeper reflection on Canada’s dark history.
The discovery also brought The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) 94 Calls to Action back to the forefront years after it was published.
The calls to action pushed for all levels of government to work together to help rebuild the relationship between Indigenous peoples and other Canadians.
In 2015, the TRC released its entire six-volume final report, which you can read on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.
Now, Canada has an official federal statutory holiday to continue this process of reconciliation.
What is Orange Shirt Day?
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Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots movement that has been held for many years, although it has been more widely recognized in British Columbia, where it began.
The annual event also lands on September 30. The day is meant to open the door to “global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools,” according to the Orange Shirt Society.
It’s a day “for Survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those that have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.”
Residential school survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story sparked the movement. When she was six years old, her grandmother bought her a new orange shirt to wear to St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, BC.
When she got to school, they took her shirt from her and didn’t give it back.
“The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying, and no one cared,” said Webstad.
Today, everyone is invited to join in Orange Shirt Day by purchasing and wearing an official Orange Shirt.
What do you do on National Truth and Reconciliation Day?
Even if you aren’t getting the day off work or school for National Truth and Reconciliation Day, there are still lots of ways that you can participate. Everyone is encouraged to wear orange and to take part in gatherings to mark the day.
You can check out what’s happening in your community, including performances, workshops, gatherings, and events. Also, you can learn more about Indigenous culture with free resources any day of the year.