GSA staff is taking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to continue learning about the atrocities enacted by the Canadian state and perpetrated by Canadian society towards Indigenous peoples and communities that continue happening today.
People on our staff will be (re)reading, reflecting and discussing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)’s reports and calls to action, learning about residential schools in the areas where they live and where they grew up, attending local events, and donating portions of their September 30 pay to Indigenous-led organizations that they’re passionate about.
What can you do?
- Find and attend local events: In Vancouver, these include gatherings and marches at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square downtown, at UBC, in East Vancouver, in North Vancouver. A list of events in the Lower Mainland can be found here. For people in Victoria, a list of events can be found here. There are also free online events, such as the ones here, led by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, or here, held by the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
- Email, call or write your local policy maker today, telling them you want immediate action to fully implement the 94 calls to action in the TRC report to truly advance reconciliation.
- Follow and support (financially if you have the means or in any way you can) Indigenous-led organizations, businesses, and folks working on the ground. A few organizations and initiatives that may be of interest include Indigenous Climate Action, Yellowhead Institute, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the Tiny House Warriors, and the Gitimd’en Checkpoint Camp. We’d love to hear about others that resonate with you.
If you are seeking concrete actions to take, the educational resources below may be helpful:
- Truth and Reconciliation Week 2021
- Orange Shirt Day’s resources
- Resources for Settlers (W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council)
- Learning Modules (Nahanee Creative)
- University of Alberta Indigenous Canada course
- 16 resources to help settlers understand and advance Indigenous reconciliation (Charity Village)
Background: the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The creation of today as a federal statutory day fulfils call to action #80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) “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.”
This new ‘holiday’ comes after years of work by Indigenous Peoples to commemorate Orange Shirt Day on September 30, as a result of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion, which took place in Williams Lake, B.C. in 2013. This project originated with the wishes of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, a survivor, to bring together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations.
The recent uncovering of unmarked graves at the nearby Kamloops Indian Residential School (located on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation territory) and other locations across the country, including ongoing investigations on Vancouver Island (at the Nanaimo “Indian Hospital”, located in Snuneymuxw First Nation territory), in Alert Bay (at the St. Michael’s Indian Residential School, located on ‘Namgis First Nation territory), and in North Vancouver (at the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, located on Squamish Nation territory), makes it painfully clear today that these efforts should have been listened to and supported many years ago.
Not all of Canada stands united in marking this day. In fact, only three provinces (M.B., P.E.I., N.S.) are formally recognizing it as a provincial holiday, while B.C. has decided to mark it as a day of commemoration. This reveals how challenging it has been for Indigenous Peoples to achieve a day unanimously supported to mark the harsh reality they have had to endure in this country, and how complex it is to establish September 30 as a ‘holiday’ despite it being a recommendation since 2015 in the TRC.
Many First Nations have reacted to this holiday with hope, caution and criticism as this is certainly not a day for joyful celebration. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, for example, has stated; “For the first time, Canadians will take this day to commemorate the legacy of residential schools” and “we will check on our survivors and their family members, listen to and share our truths, and continue to bring awareness to our struggles and our strengths, as we move forward in healing.”
Recognizing the intense emotion and harm that today can bring forth, below is a list of support services for those people impacted by residential schools and their legacy:
- Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program, which includes the National Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
- Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society, including a crisis line: 1-800-721-0066