Voices on Canada's first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: 'Residential school kids and their families have come through a war'

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Today, we mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. With a heavy heart, we pay tribute to countless Indigenous lives lost through Canada’s residential school system, missing and murdered Indigenous women and men, and every life enduring the collective trauma of colonization on identity, land and culture. We must reckon with our past to achieve true reconciliation.
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Sept 30, 2021 marks the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. With a heavy heart we pay tribute to the countless Indigenous lives lost through Canada's residential school system, and the resilience required to survive the traumas of colonization on identity, land and culture. 

This statutory federal holiday was created in Parliament on June 3, 2021 to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.

The government is encouraging Canadians to wear orange and read the calls to action set by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to learn more about the tragic history and impact of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples.

Today, we have altered the Yahoo Canada logo to honour survivors and commemorate Canada's Indigenous roots with a medicine wheel, an emblem of North American Indigenous cultural values, traditions and spirituality. The medicine wheel's four quadrants are a symbol of wholeness, connectedness and strength. It reminds us that we must reckon with our past to achieve true reconciliation. 

Individuals of Indigenous heritage share their thoughts on why the day is important and what they want Canadians to remember:

Twin Flames
Twin Flames

It is a step in the right direction there is obviously so much more room for improvement. It all starts with awareness and an openness to learn. Hopefully the day will be a start for people's journey to understanding what has happened to Indigenous peoples in this country. Racism is alive and well, and ignorance is unfortunately everywhere those are major problems in the country. They [Canadians] are all on Indigenous land and need to understand the value of keeping this land protected and healthy as well as the people who it belongs to. They are the caretakers of the beautiful place and must do better to understand what has happened here.Twin Flames, Canadian band

Madelaine McCracken
Madelaine McCracken

It is an important responsibility to honour the survivors of the residential schools and the children who did not come home, by ensuring their calls to action are enacted. So, this day is a step in a good direction. Every Child Matters, this means that all First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and youth deserve the right to grow up safely at home free of any discrimination, and ensure they have access to services they need to live safely and be culturally connected. This is important to remember because even to this day, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and youth are not receiving equitable services they need to grow up safely and in caring ways. This is not okay. Truth and Reconciliation is an ongoing process, and it takes time to tend to. We ask that Canadians take part in reconciliation, as all of us need to work together to make changes.Madelaine McCracken, Education and Public Engagement Coordinator for the Caring Society

Brandi Morin
Brandi Morin

I believe this day is enough because it was set out as a call to action in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, specifically call to action 80. So for those who do commemorate it and teach their families/friends about the importance of reconciliation, I believe it's impactful and important. This frankly, is better than nothing. This is better than what we've had or haven't had as Indigenous Peoples in this country. A federally acknowledged holiday is a big deal, even if some provinces and organizations are choosing not to acknowledge it. Now that, to me, is like the province slapping an army veteran in the face. Residential school kids and their families have come through a war too! I want Canada to remember this war. To remember how they felt when they first heard that hundreds, now thousands, of the bones of children were found thrown in graves at former residential school sites earlier this year. I want them to hold their children close and be thankful to have the freedom to raise them, to have them come home from school every night free of abuse and shame because just a couple of decades ago Indigenous kids were not as lucky. This is a step-by-step process and we'll get there together.Brandi Morin, Journalist

Sarah Midanik
Sarah Midanik

This day is an important first step in ensuring that we maintain a public memory of what happened to Indigenous children in residential schools and continue to recognize their ongoing impacts. But we can’t stop here. To date, only 13 of the 94 Calls to Action have been completed. We can all do something to move reconciliation forward in our families, communities, and workplaces not just on September 30 but every day. At the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, we call it taking ReconciliACTION. A reconciliACTION is a meaningful action that moves reconciliation forward. ReconciliACTIONs aim to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the spirit of reconciliation to create awareness, share, and learn.Sarah Midanik, CEO of The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund

Lorraine Whitman, President of NWAC
Lorraine Whitman, President of NWAC

I am so glad that this holiday has finally been declared and that Call to Action Number 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been met by the federal government. But this is not a true holiday unless is declared to be a statutory holiday by all provinces and territories and that has not happened yet. Let me be clear, this is a matter of human rights. Although Canada has many national statutory holidays, none honour the relationship with the First Peoples of this land. None celebrate First Nations, Métis, and Inuit heritage. None mark the bounty of resources they have shared with settlers and the descendants of settlers. None serve as a reminder of the impacts of colonization. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is about recognizing the great harms that are inflicted when people of one race determine that their culture and way of life are superior to that of another, and attempt to impose those values. It is about acknowledging that this land was not uninhabited when the first Europeans arrived on its shores and that, in return for sharing this land with settlers and their descendants, we have been subjected to racism and discrimination. We have been treated like second-class citizens in our own lands, and worse. It is time for real reconciliation.Lorraine Whitman, President of Native Women's Association of Canada

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