Guelph is among several communities across Canada observing the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
A number of programs and events are being held this week to bring awareness to the history and legacy of the residential school system.
Sara Sayyed, a senior policy advisor on Equity, Anti-Racism and Indigenous Initiatives for the City of Guelph, said it’s a time to learn and reflect.
“This holiday is a time of reflection, a time for learning and understanding what our historical legacy has been,” she said.
Sayyed said it’s a time to learn what’s taken place and work on building relationships with an integral part of the community that’s not been recognized.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in June declared Sept. 30 would be a new federal statutory holiday.
Earlier this month, Ontario announced it would not recognize the day as a provincial holiday, yet Peel Region said it is observing the day as a paid holiday for its staff.
The city of Guelph said it is not observing the day as a paid holiday and instead is encouraging staff to take time to reflect and increase awareness.
The city is hosting programs and events in the community, including “Hope and Healing,” an art installation” by Métis artist Tracey-Mae Chambers at the Guelph Civic Museum. The Rotary Club of Guelph is presenting “Towards Truth,” a series of events running through to Oct. 3.
Sayyed said she encourages non-Indigenous communities to take advantage of the opportunities to learn.
“There are many, many webinars, courses, reading lists and things that have been published all over social media, including podcasts, I would say take advantage of,” she said.
“Take some time to listen, read and learn and mark this as the start of your learning not just one day for a little while. But just make a commitment to say you’re going to learn and find those sources,” she said.
Sayyed said you can also sign up for free university courses, as well as support local Indigenous businesses and organizations.
The day coincides with Orange Shirt Day. The city said staff will be wearing orange shirts and stickers to honour Indigenous Peoples and the lives lost in residential schools.
The city said it’ll also be lighting City Hall, the Covered Bridge and the Civic Museum in commemoration.
Sayyed said she’s glad the federal government is observing Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday.
But moving forward, she said she hopes we really take advantage of learning about the day, and make sure we recognize its meaning and importance by continuing to learn throughout the year as well.