Tomorrow – September 30 – marks the first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation in Canada.
(If you’re not Canadian, take some time to consider what a day like this could mean in your country and look for resources to raise your awareness about Indigenous issues where you live).
Previously, this day was the grassroots-created Orange Shirt Day, meant to honour the Indigenous survivors and remember the victims of the Residential School System, and the devastating legacy of that system on all Indigenous people and communities in Canada.
Recently this grassroots-created day has been made a national day of observance and a statutory holiday in Canada.
You can read more about it here.
(By the way, a day like this was Recommendation #80 in the Truth and Reconciliation Report – in 2015!)
The first lines in the Government of Canada page (linked above) say this:
“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.”
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how I feel about days and months of commemoration….
But for those of you who are new, here we go:
Public commemoration is important. Absolutely. I agree.
(So, we now have one day set aside in the year for this particular commemoration.)
This one day is meant to remind us about residential schools and their impact, and that remembering/knowing about this is important. And for some, it will do that.
But, it’s only one day.
Remember that while we now have one day set aside to acknowledge the devastation to Indigenous Communities since colonization, Indigenous Communities and people have been impacted every day since the residential school system began in the 1870s, and continue to be impacted. (The last residential school closed in 1993)
Having a holiday like this means very little on its own.
We could even call it performative when we look and see what the Canadian government (and Canadians) are doing to actually hear and honour truth and work towards reconciliation.
While setting aside a day is symbolic and can be powerful, the power of it only comes with what we do with this day, and what it sparks in terms of action throughout the year.
So… what are we going to do as a country to make sure this doesn’t just become another day off work?
What are you going to do to support truth and reconciliation?
I hope we will all use it as a day to learn, so we can take that awareness and create change though action during the other 364 days.
Learn, understand, become more aware, so you can act…
Here are a few places to start/continue your learning and awareness-raising:
- Indigenous Cultures and Identities (a free online course through the University of Alberta)
- Residential Schools and their devastating impact:
- The 60s Scoop
- The disproportionate number of Indigenous children in the child welfare system
- The many many Reservations without clean drinking water, suitable housing
- Treaties between Indigenous nations in Canada and the government
- How much of the land we call Canada is not actually ceded territory
- The high unemployment, overrepresentation in low-paying jobs and underrepresentation in many sectors of Indigenous people in Canadian society despite it being the fastest growing demographic
And some ideas for a path forward: Pathways to Reconciliation
What will YOU do tomorrow?
What will YOU do tomorrow?
How will you make this one day mean something?
If you are a Canadian business owner or leader, how will you support your employees’ learning and participation in reconciliation? How can you show your support for truth and reconciliation – learning and action – both inside your organization and externally (as part of your CSR or giving back?) to make a difference for Indigenous People in Canada and to further Truth and Reconciliation on Turtle Island?
As an individual, what will you do tomorrow and through the year (even if you are not in Canada)) to further your learning, awareness, and understanding of Indigenous issues, so that you can participate in truth and reconciliation where you live?
What will you then demand from your Members of Parliament and employers, and what will you hold yourself to, in the spirit of equity, justice and change?
Come on, people…
It’s easy (relatively) to name a day for something.
What are we going to do with the time, to create real change?
Copyright Annemarie Shrouder 2021