Sept. 30th marks first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation
September 30th marks the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in our country’s history. Previously, Sept. 30th has been recognized as Orange Shirt Day and wearing an orange shirt continues to be one way to acknowledge the day.
The federal government created this federal statutory holiday in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #80: “to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
The City of Saskatoon will be observing the stat to demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation and so that employees may participate in events that promote healing and awareness and reflect on the residential school legacy.
Saskatoon City Mayor, Charlie Clark says: “This is a day for all Saskatonians and Canadians to take time to honour the strength and resilience of Survivors of residential schools. We acknowledge the pain that they, and their families, have carried for generations. And we recognize that this pain was brought on by government policy and the churches that ran the residential schools.”
He continues: “In naming these truths on this day, we must recommit to building a future that overcomes the colonial thinking that allowed residential schools and policies to be established. Instead, we must create relationships and systems based on mutual respect where every person is valued to be who they were meant to be.”
In order to establish and maintain a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) found that “there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”
Melissa Cote, the City’s Director of Indigenous Initiatives says: “The impacts of residential schools are felt by generations of Indigenous families. This day is a day to honour all the children who went to residential school. We need to acknowledge that it's going to take generations to heal from the trauma and effects of residential schools. It will be hard work, but important and meaningful work that we all have the responsibility to carry out.”
The City has been actively engaged – as a municipality, Co-Chair of Reconciliation Saskatoon, and through other community partnerships – in efforts to help raise awareness about the day and in providing opportunities to participate. This Community Calendar of Events hosted on the City website contains dozens of activities and initiatives that the City and other organizations have organized. Through its work with Reconciliation Saskatoon (City as Co-Chair), new reconciliation resources are being shared such as this Personal Commitment to Reconciliation and this Pathway for Moving Forward.
Saskatoon Transit buses and other City vehicles will be displaying orange t-shirt stencils this week. The City social media channels and website are being “painted orange”. City Hall, the Prairie Wind art installation and SaskTel Centre will light up orange Sept. 29-30. The flags on City-owned facilities will be lowered to half-mast to honour Survivors, those that never made it home, and the families impacted by residential schools.
Residential school Survivor John Merasty says this about Sept. 30th: “Don’t stay at home. We need to go out to the street on Orange Shirt Day. Maybe someone will be asking, why are you wearing this shirt and you can tell them why. The students should learn about Indian people and the struggles that they lived and they are continuing living today.”