What Can You Do on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day
is September 30, 2023

Since 2021, the recovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools has brought widespread attention to what many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people already knew: thousands of Indigenous children perished and were harmed in the Canadian Indian Residential School System. The graves raised many questions about how a society takes responsibility for the suffering inflicted by its own institutions upon vulnerable children.

September 30 was declared a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by the Canadian government in 2021 to commemorate those who died within these state- and church-run institutions. The date was chosen to coincide with the Indigenous led Orange Shirt Day, which has been observed since 2013.

Orange Shirt Day invites learning and dialogue about the colonial violence enacted by the state and church-run residential school system, its ongoing intergenerational and community harms, and the ways in which the logics of the system continue to manifest today. It also invites genuine commitment to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action. 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. The orange shirt can be understood as a symbol of the genocide, separation of families, and many forms of abuses enacted upon Indigenous children and their communities over generations.

On October 27, 2022, the House of Commons officially recognized the Indian Residential School System as genocide. In 2023, we continue to mourn and bear witness as more unmarked graves are recovered across Canada. As recently as August 2023, more unmarked graves were recovered in English River First Nation in Saskatchewan. Tragically, there have been so many recoveries that we do not have the capacity to address each instance, yet we want to acknowledge the pain that each recovery means for Indigenous communities, including Indigenous YMCA staff, volunteers, and members. Each recovery is also a reminder of our ongoing responsibility to address colonialism and reconciliation.

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.  

Local Events
  • Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden is having a Truth and Reconciliation Day Sacred Fire at the garden from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.  
  • Newash Community Helpers’ Group & Partnering Programs is hosting a Truth and Reconciliation Day Fall Festival at Cape Croker Park from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.
  • Saugeen Advocacy for Healing in partnership with Saugeen Community Services and Supporting organizations is hosting National Truth & Reconciliation Day events from 11 AM – 4 PM at James Nation Centre, Saugeen First Nation on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.
  • Have an event you would like us to add? Please email details to communications@osgb.ymca.ca
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