National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The day 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.

The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent.

In 2021, the unmarked mass grave of 215 Indigenous children was discovered at the site of a Residential School in Kamloops. In the months that followed, this discovery brought new attention to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the aim of which was to listen to the stories of the Residential School Survivors and acknowledge these voices. More graves would be discovered across Canada, and more voices were given space in the media to be heard.

One of the recommendations from the Commission was to create a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as a day to reflect on and learn about the impact of residential school systems in Canada. In June of 2021, that day was declared to be recognized annually on September 30th by the federal government. The province of B.C. will also be recognizing this day: “Our government is calling on all of us who deliver services to the public to use this opportunity to consider what each of us can do as individuals to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and to recommit to understanding the truth of our shared history, to accept and learn from it and in doing so, help to create a better, more inclusive British Columbia.”

Since 2013, September 30th has been known as Orange Shirt Day after the story shared by Residential School survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad, about her orange shirt being taken away when arriving at the school. This has become a symbol about how the identities of Indigenous children were stripped away with the goal of assimilation and the erasure of Indigenous culture. Please click the link to hear the story in her words.

Resources for learning: