Witness the Truth, Change the Future
Orange Shirt Day and Kamloops Indian Residential School Findings came before the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led movement to honour residential school survivors and their families, originated when Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her story at an event held in Williams Lake, BC, in spring of 2013. For many years, it was observed annually, but not officially. In May 2021, Chief Rosanne Casimir of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc confirmed the finding of the remains of 215 children by ground-penetrating radar on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Residential school findings are ongoing. Our national dialogue must also be. The atrocities committed by the Canadian government on Indigenous Peoples have always been known to Indigenous Peoples, who held the knowledge and suffering without public recognition of the truth by the government. As residential school findings continued, we mourned during National Indigenous Peoples Day and History Month 2021, a time usually dedicated to celebrating Indigenous communities and cultures.
We must all commit to creating safer places for ongoing dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. On September 30, 2021, the Canadian government officially designated Orange Shirt Day as a statutory holiday to honour the Survivors of Canadian residential institutions and those who never made it home. Canadians observed the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as federal and provincial governments publicly recognized the atrocities committed and the deep need for national dialogue and healing.
Sit with uncomfortable truths. Today and beyond, take an honest look at Canadian reality and reflect on Canada’s responsibility for the deaths and suffering of Indigenous children at residential institutions across the nation. It is important to hear these stories, no matter how difficult they may be. Step forward as a witness to the hard truths, and accept responsibility to learn and change.
Step forward as a witness to the vitality, culture, and knowledge of living Indigenous people and communities in Canada. Read books by Indigenous authors and seek Indigenous perspectives. Take opportunities to hear residential school survivors speak. Visit Indigenous cultural centres and events open to the public. Listen and find your place in an ongoing national dialogue dedicated to truth and reconciliation on this day and always.
Reconciliation is unique for everyone.
What reconciliation means is as unique as each person who envisions it. Heal and learn to make your contribution to truth and reconciliation. It is a day to call upon all of those who can effect change to take action to advance reconciliation in Canada. Every one of us can effect change. We seek healing to contribute to reconciliation in a good way that honours our unique skills, experience, and vision for wholeness.
With ongoing national dialogue, let’s take the first steps together on a long journey toward a safe space where true collaboration, partnership, and reconciliation can happen.