London, Ont. unveils plans to honour 2nd annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

FILE PHOTO. Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

City officials on Tuesday released details about how London, Ont. will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

The federal statutory holiday, first held last year, is to honour the survivors of Canada’s residential school system and to remember the children who never returned home.

“Acknowledging, learning and reflecting on the tragic legacy and ongoing impacts of residential schools is critical to guiding a compassionate journey towards reconciliation,” Mayor Ed Holder said in a statement.

“In the spirit of reconciliation, education and hope, on September 30 we encourage all Londoners to wear orange and honour those who survived residential schools and remember those who did not.”

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Among the ways the city says it will honour the day is with the development of a large, seven-panel mural in collaboration with the N’Amerind Friendship Centre and the London Arts Council.

The two-storey mural, which will be on the exterior wall of N’Amerind Friendship Centre, will be unveiled on Sept. 30, and will honour the legacy of residential school survivors and the children who were lost, the city says.

The mural, named “We Are Still Here,” will be led by Mike Cywink, an Ojibwe educator and visual artist, who will work with local Indigenous youth artists and residential school survivors in its creation.

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As well, the city says the flags of the five signatory First Nations will be on display on the second floor at city hall to mark the anniversary of the London Township Treaty of 1796.

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Also on display on the second floor of city hall will be a collection of Indigenous artworks from artists Brenda Collins, Annette Sullivan and Chandra Nolan. The works will be on display until Sept. 30.

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Municipal buildings will be lit in orange, and an “Every Child Matters” flag will be raised at city hall from Sept. 26 until Oct. 2, the city says.

All city administrative offices, including at city hall and Citi Plaza, will be closed for the day, officials said.

Ontario Works offices and the Provincial Offences Administrative Office will also be closed, as will the municipal community centre, aquatic facilities and Storybook Gardens. There will also be no waste or recycling pickup. EnviroDepots and the landfill will remain open.

Alizabeth George-Antone, Indigenous community liaison advisory, said the city was “committed to ReconciliAction through continued support and acknowledgement of the amazing contributions our Indigenous communities have made from the original treaties,” to current social justice initiatives.

“We are working towards equity together. Knowledge is power.”

An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children attended residential schools in Canada between the 1860s and 1996.

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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented stories from survivors and families and issued a report in 2015 which detailed the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths.

Last year, ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools, sparking efforts to remember survivors.

In late July, Pope Francis embarked on a six-day tour of Canada, during which he apologized for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the institutions, and asked for forgiveness. On his flight back to Rome from Iqaluit, Francis said the abuses Indigenous Peoples faced amounted to genocide.

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Earlier this month, the Survivors’ Secretariat, the group tasked with a research initiative to investigate Brantford’s Mohawk Institute Residential School, revealed records of 97 deaths connected with the institute — more than double the number originally identified by the National Centre on Truth and Reconciliation.

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Ontario has said it believes there are likely more unmarked burial sites in the province than the 12 identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

According to the city, London is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Attawandaron.

Treaties specific to this area include:

  • Two Row Wampum Belt Treaty of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy/Silver Covenant Chain
  • Beaver Hunting Grounds of the Haudenosaunee NANFAN Treaty of 1701
  • McKee Treaty of 1790
  • London Township Treaty of 1796
  • Huron Tract Treaty of 1827, with the Anishinaabeg
  • Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum of the Anishnaabek and Haudenosaunee.

— with files from Global News’ Saba Aziz, Don Mitchell and The Canadian Press

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