Every year on September 30, we observe Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in order to honour survivors and ancestors who perished from residential schools, as well as their families and communities who continue to be affected. This date was chosen because it represents the time of year when church and government would organize the removal of children from First Nations, Métis and Inuit families and communities to take them to residential schools. This was not simply a dark chapter in Canada’s history – the painful legacy of these schools continues to this day with more Indigenous children currently in foster care than there ever were in residential schools. It is important that we spend time reflecting on the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous racism, current issues and how, as allies, we can enact reconciliatory transformation while uplifting the brilliance and sophistication of Indigenous knowledges.
This year, the federal government officially established the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. Establishing this long overdue national statutory holiday was one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action and having it recognized provincially is a vital component of the reconciliation process. However, it is also important that recognition includes action. With the recent discoveries of more than 6,000 unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country, meaningful recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation must include more than words.
At Women’s College, we are committed to building an equitable health system – and world – that is culturally safe and free of racism. As we wear our orange shirts today, I ask that everyone also commit to taking meaningful action as allies. This can include:
- Learning about Orange Shirt Day and the painful legacy of Canada’s Residential School System.
- Making a donation – if you weren’t able to purchase a limited-edition orange shirt from the Centre for Wise Practices, you can still donate to the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence Campaign.
- Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 calls to action
- Educating yourself about First Nations, Inuit and Métis histories and cultures by visiting the On Canada Project, which provides information on how to take action in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of this land
- Reviewing the many amazing resources and action items developed by the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health to enact reconciliation in healthcare and beyond
Later today, the Centre for Wise Practices in Indigenous Health will also be sharing a recording of a ceremony with Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Song, Drum and oral stories; honouring truth before reconciliation. The recording will be posted online and through the Centre for Wise Practices social channels. While this is a time for reflection and action, it is also a time for healing for our Indigenous peers and community – I encourage everyone to take the time to support and join in virtually.
Reconciliation is an ongoing journey that we all share and our action as allies is critical – both on this day and every day.