Today marks the first annual National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada. Previously, this day was acknowledged as Orange Shirt Day, an informal event where residents of Canada were encouraged to wear orange t-shirts to show support and solidarity with residential school survivors. Now nationally recognized, Truth and Reconciliation day is marked by the long history of Indigenous-settler relations in Canada, beginning centuries ago when this land was first colonized, moving through to present-day where many Indigenous communities are still facing mistreatment and the legacy of residential schools remains.
At the Stigma-Free Society, we firmly believe that Indigenous folks from across Turtle Island should be acknowledged and recognized as the caretakers of this land that they are today, and have always been. Stigma and racism faced by Indigenous communities remains pervasive in Canada, and the mental health challenges that can arise from these experiences must be acknowledged. We encourage everyone to join and promote our partnering organization We Matter in their vital work of sharing stories of hope and resilience among Indigenous youths and amplifying the voices of young Indigenous creatives.
What is Truth and Reconciliation?
In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was founded in response to the lawsuit against the Canadian government regarding the atrocities of residential schools. According to Facing History & Ourselves, “since the beginning of its work in 2010, the commission has been collecting information about what was done to survivors in the residential schools and has worked to make this information public. From this process, the survivors receive public, communal acknowledgement and support for years of injustice and suffering.” A vital part of the commission’s work is educating the public on residential schools, a part of Canadian history that has for far too long gone unacknowledged.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has published their Calls to Action, which you can find HERE. These 94 Calls to Action address various injustices that have been pervasive in Indigenous communities across Canada and are intended to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”
What can educators do on Truth and Reconciliation Day?
Acknowledging the legacy of Residential Schools and educating young people on the continued mistreatment of Indigenous folks in Canada is a crucial step in working toward justice and change. Historically, these conversations have been left-out of commonplace curriculum in schools, an exemption that can perpetuate stigma. Weaving this history, Indigenous culture and teachings into lessons and classroom conversations is important throughout the entire school year. However, on this day in particular, it is vital to engage in these conversations. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website provides educators with invaluable resources that can be implemented in their classrooms today and throughout the entire school year.
What can I do on Truth and Reconciliation Day?
Something that we can all do on Truth and Reconciliation day is read the 94 Calls to Action, put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Again, that resource can be found HERE. Reading and learning about these Calls to Action can inform Canadians about the issues facing Indigenous folks, and this awareness is the first step in being part of this fundamental change.
Another small act you can do is to wear an orange shirt to show acknowledgement and support of residential school survivors. This website provides links to online shops where you can purchase orange T-shirts that have been designed by Indigenous creators and where the proceeds will go to supporting Indigenous causes.
Throughout this week, from September 27th to October 1st 2021, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is hosting online events for schools. Educators are encouraged to participate in these virtual events with their students. They are also hosting livestream events for the general public throughout the week. The recordings will be housed on their website after the events for folks to watch if they cannot attend live.
By taking this time to listen and learn, we can work together toward awareness, change, and hope.