Tomorrow, September 30, marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities. A day that took far too long to proclaim and continues to rattle legislatures in the prairies.
As you may be aware, it was just this past June that the federal government passed legislation to recognize this day as a federal statutory holiday. The day is meant for Canadians to confront our country’s legacy of colonialism, violence and systemic racism through learning, reflection and commitment to take meaningful action on reconciliation.
The passing of this legislation followed on the heartbreaking and horrific discovery of thousands of children’s unmarked graves throughout the country, including hundreds across the prairies. These gruesome discoveries further lift the veil of ignorance that continues to permeate in some Canadians minds, thousands of children who never returned to their families and communities, a legacy of residential schools that has left intergenerational impacts on families that had their children taken from them and survivors of residential schools whose experiences have left them changed forever.
I write today to implore each one of us to listen to the stories of survivors, to educate ourselves and show compassion.
Compassion and education that seems to be lacking in some provinces, whose governments refuse to acknowledge this day. I say this to them, you are yet again on the wrong side of history, and your apathy sends a clear message to the Indigenous community and allies that your calls for reconciliation are nothing more than a talking point and continues to support the legacy of racism and colonialism permeating provincial politics.
Lest we forget tomorrow is a day of remembrance, reflection, action and learning. A day that has been known as Orange Shirt Day, born out of Phyllis Webstad’s personal experience. It is a day to recognise the tragic history and long-standing effects of residential schools. Remember to wear orange to symbolize resiliency and a way to honour those impacted by residential schools.
It is a time for each of us to sit down, listen and commit to acting toward meaningful reconciliation. It is only through confronting the harms of the past that we can truly begin to heal and work together nation to nation.
PSAC Prairies Regional Executive Vice-President