Reconciliation efforts continue beyond Sept. 30

The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was marked Sept. 30, 2021.

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Indigenous leaders and Canadians who have long sought a path forward towards reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians for past abuses such as the residential school system remain hopeful that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation held on Sept. 30 will have a lasting impact in the future and be more than just a one-day-a-year affair.

The first federally-designated National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was marked on Sept. 30, but it will be actions going forward that will determine if there has been a real and lasting turning point on the path towards reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 (the date was previously and unofficially designated as “Orange Shirt Day” to recall the losses that Indigenous children suffered through the residential school system) was marked this year across the country even though not all of the provinces designated the day as a statutory holiday.

For the most part the federal government recognition of the day was taken as positive step by Indigenous leaders, as was a formal apology by Canada’s Catholic bishops for the church’s role in the residential school system that came a week before.

“Today and every day, let’s hold a vision of happy healthy children surrounded by the love and care of their families in safe, vibrant communities,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald.

“Every child matters and our little ones have an inherent right to safety, love and happiness. I also welcome the designation of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to remind all Canadians of the harms done to our little ones,” said Chief Archibald.

The special day marking reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples on Sept. 30 did not go on without a hitch, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the controversial decision to go on vacation with his family on that very day.

Trudeau did take part in a number of events the night of Sept 29 in Ottawa tied into the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and a statement released by his office laid out why his government has designated Sept. 30 as a statuary federal holiday from now on.

“It is a day to reflect on the painful and lasting impacts of residential schools in Canada, and to honour survivors, their families, and their communities. It is also a day to remember the many children who never returned home, and an opportunity for us all to learn more, and to affirm the need for reconciliation and commit ourselves to the work ahead,” a statement released by the Prime Minister’s office said Sept. 30.

“This year, the tragic locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country has reminded us of not only the impacts of colonialism and the harsh realities of our collective past, but also the work that is paramount to advancing reconciliation in Canada,” the PMO statement said, adding “we also recognize the harms, injustices, and intergenerational trauma that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – because of the residential school system, systemic racism, and the discrimination that persists in our society. We must all learn about the history and legacy of residential schools. It’s only by facing these hard truths, and righting these wrongs, that we can move forward together toward a more positive, fair, and better future.”

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation recognizes that at least 150,000 Indigenous children from across the country were forcibly separated from their families and their communities,” the PMO said. “Children were brought to residential schools where too many experienced abuse and were removed from their cultures, languages, and traditions.”

AFN National Chief Archibald said she is willing to work with all Canadian political leaders after the recent Sept. 20 federal election to further reconciliation efforts.

“There is a healing path forward and we can get there by working together,” Chief Archibald said.