Musqueam acknowledges the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in honour of children who attended Indian residential schools
wə ƛ̓iʔ tə steʔəxʷəɬ tə mək̓ʷ wet
“all children are important”
For many years, Musqueam has commemorated Orange Shirt Day as a day to honour residential school survivors and remember the children who never came home. This year, we will join all Canadians in marking September 30 as the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released 94 calls to action to address the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation in Canada. Call to action #80 specifically asked the government to create a new statutory holiday:
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
Six years later, this call to action is finally realized, but is only one of very few actions that have been implemented. As of September 27, CBC News reports that 13 actions have been completed, with four being implemented only in June 2021, after the devastating discovery of 215 human remains at the former site of Kamloops Residential School. There are 29 calls to action underway, while the remaining 52 have either not been started or are only proposed projects at this time.
“Today, we recognize the resiliency of the residential school survivors in our community. These members and their families, which encompass all of our community, are still living with the traumas endured at Indian residential and day schools,” said Chief Wayne Sparrow. “We cannot talk about truth and reconciliation until the government and the churches that administered the schools are held accountable for their actions. This means going beyond apologies and moving toward action: releasing the records that have long been kept from our people, naming the known abusers and seeing that justice is served.”
Not only is this day important to remember the horrific traumas experienced in residential schools, it is also a day to acknowledge the ongoing legacy of government-legislated assimilation tactics. Musqueam encourages all Canadians to educate themselves and take time to reflect on how they can recognize the past and take action to contribute to a better future.
Indigenous people across the country are working hard to honour our Elders, change cycles of abuse and advance the rights of our nations while staying rooted in our traditions. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold the teachings of our ancestors and build upon their legacy by sharing our histories, values and cultural practices with our young ones, and teaching them that we all have a responsibility to create a brighter future.
“Make no mistake, there is no Indigenous person in Canada that is unaffected by residential schools and other assimilationist policies,” said Chief Wayne Sparrow. “Please be respectful of survivors and their families, and know that everyone has different comfort levels with discussing how they are impacted by this history.”
Since T’kemlups’ announcement in late May 2021 about unmarked graves at the former school, Musqueam, other First Nations and individual Indigenous people and organizations have received an increased number of enquiries. These requests range from representation at events to seeking substantive input on a variety of initiatives.
With such a dramatic upsurge in interest, please consider the demand that this places on our communities. We have always encouraged the development of long-term, reciprocal relationships with partners, and simply ask that these requests be rooted in mutual respect, a commitment to support meaningful engagement, and a desire to truly listen to our input, even when it may be difficult or challenging to hear or implement.
What can you do on September 30, and beyond?
- Participate in events in your area and wear orange
- Learn something new by reading all 94 Calls to Action or one of the many other TRC Reports
- Reflect how you can personally and professionally implement the calls to action, and step forward to create change
- Donate within your means to an organization that supports residential school survivors, or other Indigenous-led non-profits that are doing work that speaks to you
- Consume art created by Indigenous artists: watch movies or TV shows created by Indigenous people, read books written by Indigenous authors, seek out art exhibits that showcase Indigenous visual artists, listen to music created by Indigenous musicians