Paid day off to reflect on truth and reconciliation? There’s a way to donate those earnings

Click to play video: 'How the orange shirt became the symbol for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation'
How the orange shirt became the symbol for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
On Sept. 30, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians will wear orange to reflect on the tragic legacy of residential schools. Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First Nation discusses the importance of Orange Shirt Day in supporting the reconciliation process. – Sep 29, 2022

As Canadians observe the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a Vancouver man is encouraging those who can to donate their day’s earnings to the cause.

Joshua Hensman and his friends launched the One Day’s Pay campaign last year and ended up raising nearly half a million dollars for organizations supporting First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples.

“It just kind of felt a bit strange to be getting a paid day off when the Indigenous people of Canada are going to be mourning,” Hensman explained.

“One day’s pay is a really simple way for Canadians to do something meaningful.”

This year’s beneficiaries are the Indigenous Perspectives Society, the Anishnawbe Health Foundation, the Orange Shirt Society and Indigenous Watchdog, a non-profit that tracks the progress of commitments to Indigenous Peoples in Canada, particularly the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action.

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The campaign partners with The Circle on Philanthropy, an Indigenous-led organization that helps mobilize the settler philanthropic sector and the decolonization of wealth. Its CEO, Kris Archie, said she would like to see One Day’s Pay continue to soar and amplify the work of Indigenous organizations, while keeping reconciliation “a conversation around the kitchen table, in workplaces, in churches and other communities throughout the whole year.”

“I’d like to see this as an entry point, an opportunity for folks to recognize that their cash can actually be helpful to local Indigenous-led organizations,” Archie told Global News.

According to Archie, less than one per cent of Canadian philanthropic donations go to Indigenous organizations. She encouraged the public to think critically about their donation practices and publicly share the Indigenous organizations they contribute to, which makes friends more likely to do the same.

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Douglas Sinclair, publisher of Indigenous Watchdog, said funds raised between now and the Oct. 10 deadline will go a long way for his organization, whose work he has partially subsidized himself. Indigenous Watchdog has tracked promises on a number of topics, including drinking water advisories, suicide prevention, housing, the Calls to Action and more.

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“Whether it’s child welfare, education, justice or health, it is a chronic state of underfunding,” Sinclair told Global News.

“What I’m doing is providing the core knowledge and access to information that empowers researchers, policy analysts, educators and journalists to be able to access high-quality, reliable information — to help them do their jobs more effectively and be more action-focused.”

According to Indigenous Watchdog, as of Aug. 20, 33 of the TRC’s Calls to Action were stalled or not started, with 50 in progress and 11 complete.

Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was declared last year — answering a six-year-old call from the TRC — after a number of First Nations detected the suspected remains of hundreds of children near former residential school sites.

Canada’s residential school system was in place from the late 1800s to the mid-1990s, and sought to “eliminate parental involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development” of Indigenous children, according to the TRC.

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The state and church-run institutions forcibly removed more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children from their families and placed them in schools where many were physically, sexually and spiritually abused by those charged with their care. Many were also starved as part of scientific experiments on the effects of malnutrition.

Thousands died in the harrowing system of assimilation, leading to intergenerational trauma that has had a deep and lasting impact on survivors, their children, relations and communities.

Click to play video: 'Métis scholar on how to continue the conversation of Truth and Reconciliation after Sept. 30'
Métis scholar on how to continue the conversation of Truth and Reconciliation after Sept. 30

Archie, a Secwepemc and Seme7 woman from Ts’qescen, gave a special shoutout Friday to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, nations, communities and organizations that are hosting settlers as they mark the day through ceremony, dance, song, and the sharing of food and stories.

She described it as “a beautiful act of generosity” and a “continued demonstration of Indigenous Peoples’ commitment to be in good relations with the people around them, the land and with non-human beings.”

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She also encouraged settler Canadians to connect the past with the present they enjoy, whether their children are learning about Indigenous practices and cultures in schools, or whether their families are visiting a park that has long been protected by Indigenous Peoples.

“I would really invite folks to consider the ways in which their lives, their communities and the places that they live in have been enriched by the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who steward the lands that they’re now occupying,” she said.

On Sept. 30, Sinclair is encouraging Canadians to think about what they can to support the Indigenous organizations where they live and play.

“It’s at that level that things happen, things change,” he explained. “If they can’t do that directly, just being able to improve their understanding and knowledge of what the truth about the Indigenous reality in Canada is.”

Canada suffers from a “long history of broken relationships” with Indigenous Peoples, said Sinclair. The more its population can empathize and understand the challenges faced by them, the more quickly structural improvement will come, he added.

“Murray Sinclair said it way back in the beginning, ‘Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.'”

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The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 1-800-721-0066 is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers culturally competent counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples experiencing trauma, distress, strong emotions and painful memories. The line can be reached anytime toll-free at 1-855-242-3310.

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