On July 20, 2021, the Government of Canada announced a new federal statutory holiday to take place annually on September 30 called National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation builds upon Orange Shirt Day, which first began in Williams Lake, British Columbia in 2013. Since then, on September 30 every year, Canadians take the day to honour and remember the harm that was done to Indigenous children who were sent away to residential schools in Canada, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
The orange shirt in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that was given to Phyllis Webstad by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. Upon arriving at school, her clothes were taken away, including her new shirt. Since then, the colour orange has always reminded Phyllis of her experiences at residential school.
Mass Unmarked Graves Found
Earlier this year, between May and July, several unmarked gravesites near many more former residential schools were identified across Canada. Each of the sites contained the remains of hundreds of people believed to be mostly Indigenous children who were forced to attend these schools. The sites that have been found are estimated to hold the remains of more than 1,500 people, with an anticipated 3,000 more that have yet to be uncovered.
The discovery of the mass graves has marked a shift in impact that residentials schools are now having on Indigenous communities across Canada. And what’s become abundantly clear, is that there remains much work to do on our country’s journey toward reconciliation with Indigenous people.
In response to the initial findings at the Kamloops Residential School, as well as the Brandon Residential School and the Marieval Indian Residential School, YMCA Canada issued the following statements:
- YMCA Canada Statement on the Kamloops Residential School
- YMCA Canada Honours National Indigenous Peoples Day
- Canada Day 2021 Statement
How Can You Take Part?
Below are lists of resources and local events that we encourage you to participate in, read or watch to learn more and create awareness. On September 30th, wear an orange shirt to visibly show your support and promote the concept that #EveryChildMatters.
- Georgian College is raising Every Child Matters flags at campuses across Ontario leading up to September 30. People on campus can join them at the Owen Sound campus on Monday, September 27 at 12:00 p.m. to watch the ceremony and others can join virtually on their Instagram account.
- Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden Truth and Reconciliation Day Sacred Fire at the garden on September 30 from 3:00-5:00 p.m.
- Hanover National Day of Truth and Reconciliation Events
- Hanover Library will be offering programming to recognize the day in various ways, to raise local awareness of Indigenous issues and Residential schools.
- Bruce County National Day of Truth and Reconciliation Acknowledgements
- Bruce County Library Book List on Residential Schools
- Rogers TV will be offering a daily land acknowledgement on their community cable channel 53 in Grey County and on all community channels across Canada starting on Sept. 30.
- Ne’iikaanigaana: Creating Safer Environments for Indigenous Peoples: A webinar held on creating safer environments for Indigenous Peoples in partnership with the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council.
- Children’s book launch hosted by Bruce Grey Child & Family Services: Jigging for Halibut by Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson. To attend, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org book launch is virtual at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 29th.
- Hear our YMCA Manager; Child Care, Cyndy Jefferson, read Phyllis Webstad’s children’s story, “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt” here: https://youtu.be/VORsDoZVcY0
Other Local Acknowledgements
- The Meeting Place Tobermory is teaming up with M’Wikwedong to provide traditional meals through our Good To Go Guided Meal Program throughout October (available to residents of the North Bruce Peninsula).
- The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce: Staff and clients are being encouraged to wear orange and attend the Truth and Reconciliation event on September 30th. All staff will be encouraged to have 5 minutes of silence at 12:00pm on that day.
- Ontario Disability Support (ODSP) office: cheque day for ODSP clients has been moved to September 29th and the office will remain open with reduced staff on September 30th with staff attending the sacred fire
- City of Owen Sound will observe this holiday to provide an opportunity to recognize, reflect on and commemorate the legacy of residential schools or participate in a community event. The Every Child Matters Flag will fly at half-mast from September 20 to September 30 at City Hall.
- Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419 — The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her Residential school experience.
- Learn more from Orangeshirtday.org, which includes resources for Teachers
- Learn about the history of residential schools in Canada
- Read Phyllis Webstad’s story in her own words
- Sign up to receive a digital version of Every Child Matters: Reconciliation through Education
- Share this CBC Kids resource for What is Orange Shirt Day?
- Attend and share information about the Every Child Matters: Reconciliation Through Education virtual event for youth grades 5-12 taking place on September 30
- Consider these activities for kids put together by the BC Teachers Federation
- Get a general overview of the work being done with reconciliation at National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Ontario ICS Program (Indigenous Cultural Safety Program)
- University of Toronto Understanding Indigenous Perspectives – register by contacting email@example.com or call 1-855-488-5212 for a set of free learning modules to support with education to gain a deeper understanding of key issues affecting indigenous people in Canada.
- University of Alberta Indigenous Canada course – approx. 21 hours to complete.
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action PDF
- Watch YMCA Calgary’s Orange Shirt Day video
- Learn about how to approach Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in your community:
- Create a land acknowledgement for use when gathering with others
- Familiarize yourself with tobacco offering protocol for approaching Elders and Knowledge Keepers