PathWise Solutions is choosing to honour the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 by suspending from working that day. We want to offer our team the opportunity to have time to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools and reflect on how the legacy of Canadian forced assimilation policies have impacted Indigenous peoples across the country. It is also in keeping with our desire to support the process of justice for past wrongs that attempted to disempower Canada’s Indigenous peoples. This day is especially important as two of the owners of the company are Métis citizens. And so, we honour this day for all those whose silenced voices are finally being heeded and hope for justice in the future.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
In 2021, the Government of Canada passed legislation to make September 30 the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and create a federal holiday in order to allow an opportunity to “…recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.” The day was chosen as it was one that was already being recognized by many Canadians as Orange Shirt Day.
Murray Sinclair, former senator and former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has stressed that this day is “not just about marching and dressing up and getting some time off from school [or] work.” It’s about ensuring that what happened in residential schools and their continuing impacts stay in “our national memory.”
Why September 30th and Orange Shirt Day?
Since 2013, the non-profit Orange Shirt Society (based in Williams Lake, BC) has used this day to recognize the ongoing impact and intergenerational harm that the residential school system has had on Canada’s Indigenous peoples, with late September symbolising the time of year that children were usually taken from their homes to these schools. The ongoing event sprang from the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake in May 2013. That event offered an opportunity to “witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.”
A spokesperson for the Reunion group and former student, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school, where the brand-new orange shirt that her grandmother bought for her was stripped from her. As Phyllis has said, “The color 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.”
Orange shirts have since become a way to honour victims and survivors and show support for those still impacted by the legacy of residential schools. This has become even more important with the uncovering of unidentified remains of children who were former residential school students on residential school grounds across Canada.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Activities You Can Participate In
There are many virtual and in-person events taking place across the country. Take a look at this list on the Orange Shirt Day website for some ideas of what’s happening in BC. You can also participate in activities led by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Other ways you can deepen your knowledge and show support is by educating yourself on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues. A great place to start is the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies’ Indigenous Canada open, online course.
You can choose to donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSS) or other charities and nonprofits that support reconciliation efforts, Indigenous women, Indigenous arts and culture, health and wellness for Indigenous Peoples, and more. See this list on Canada Helps.
Another way you can help is by ensuring that if you’re purchasing an orange shirt to honour the survivors and victims , it’s from a place that donates the profits to an Indigenous cause or is Indigenous owned.
Where to Get Support
If you’re a residential school survivor, you can call the Indian Residential School Survivors Society 24/7 for crisis support at 1-800-721-0066.
Indigenous peoples across Canada can also connect with The Hope for Wellness Help 24/7 for counselling and crisis intervention. Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll free) or connect to their online chat.
(Michif for thank you)