Thursday will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, a federal statutory holiday created to mark the history of Canadian treatment of Indigenous Peoples and the legacy of intergenerational trauma it has left.
The day, implemented earlier this year as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, will see federally regulated workplaces such as banks and the public sector pause work to give Canadians a chance to reflect on the legacies of the residential school system, colonial policies and the cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which began in 2013 to mark the story of Phyllis Webstad’s new orange shirt being stripped from her on the first day she attended a B.C. residential school.
In Ottawa, there are a number of events and opportunities to learn and reflect about the need for reconciliation in Canada.
The Remember Me walk will honour the lives of children who were taken from their families as part of Canada’s residential school system, and whose bodies have been found in staggering numbers at unmarked graves across the country this past year.
The event will begin at Parliament Hill at 10 a.m., after which Indigenous women will lead a spirit walk to Confederation Park for an afternoon of music, presentations and dance.
Beechwood Cemetery, the National Cemetery of Canada, will mark the day with a two-hour tour designed to show the “educational and contemporary truths” of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples’ relationships with Canada.
Included in the program is the first-ever public display of 57,000 tiles created by children across Canada to honour the victims of the residential school system and a tour of the gravesites of some of the key architects of the program.
Both the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau will offer free admission to their exhibits on Thursday. The history museum is currently displaying a special exhibit called “Rekindled — tradition, modernity and transformation in Indigenous cultures.”
Though free, tickets must be reserved in advance for attendance to both institutions.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.