Statement on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The following statement refers to the Indian Residential School System. A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school Survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

September 30, 2023, is the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as well as Orange Shirt Day. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours the thousands of Indigenous children lost to the residential school system, Survivors, and their communities. Orange Shirt Day was initiated by Phyllis Webstad sharing her experiences as a residential school Survivor. On this day, we are called on to engage in learning and dialogue about the colonial violence enacted by the state and church-run residential school system, and its ongoing intergenerational and community harm. This day also invites genuine commitment to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action.

Today, the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce wishes to express solidarity with Indigenous communities, and we reflect upon our ongoing need to engage in a process of Truth and Reconciliation. We continue to mourn and bear witness as more unmarked graves are recovered across Canada. We want to acknowledge the pain that each recovery means for Indigenous communities, including Indigenous YMCA staff, volunteers, and members.

As one action towards reconciliation, YMCA Canada, which includes the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce, raised $31,590 for the Orange Shirt Society through the sale of orange shirts this year. YMCA Canada also remains focused on their work of revising their recruitment practices to address the underrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples on the National Board of Directors. To mark this day, YMCA Canada also held a national webinar for YMCA staff across the country to further learning and reflection opportunities.

In addition, this year, at the YMCA Canada Public Policy Forum, we engaged with the Yellowhead Institute to learn from a co-author of their report, Calls to Action Accountability: A 2022 Status Update on Reconciliation. We also learned about the barriers and challenges to achieving Truth and Reconciliation. According to the report, as of 2022, only 13 of the 94 TRC Calls to Action had been completed. As the report points out, many Survivors are aging, and there are fears that meaningful progress will not be enacted in time for them to witness. The report also provides valuable information about promising practices for settler institutional leadership, such as equitably sharing the obligations of reconciliation to lessen the burden on Indigenous Peoples. We remain committed to taking this obligation seriously and working ethically with Indigenous communities.

At the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce, and as part of our new Strategic Plan (to be released October 2023) we will be supporting additional learning opportunities for our employees and volunteers, beginning with “Indigenous Cultural Competency for the YMCA.” As we move forward with our Plan, we will also be exploring other actions we can take along our path to reconciliation. We look forward to sharing more about this with our community in the future.

This National Day of Reconciliation, the YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce encourages all non-Indigenous individuals and organizations to act in solidarity with Indigenous communities, including our own leadership, staff, volunteers, and members. The process of reconciliation requires that non-Indigenous individuals and settler-led Institutions recognize and reflect upon their ongoing responsibilities to the Indigenous nations of the land. This work must be done not just today, but every day.

For a list of learning resources and local events in the area, please click here. 


Sarah Cowley, Chief Executive Officer
YMCA of Owen Sound Grey Bruce

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