TORONTO - Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. It is a day for reflection and to honour the lost children and survivors of the country’s residential schools, their families and communities.
This year has been a difficult one for everyone, especially for Indigenous communities following the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves, including the remains of children, on the grounds of former residential schools across Canada. It has reopened old wounds for the survivors and their families. It has also reignited the discussion of meaningful action to rebuild trust, reconciliation and mutual respect as a community and as a country.
In June 2021, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-5 which designates September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. The passage of the Bill is a direct response to action number 80 of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It is also recognized as a federal statutory holiday which applies to all federal government and federally regulated workplaces. However, critics have been quick to criticize some jurisdictions who have chosen not to recognize the day as a statutory holiday.
While most provinces and territories have chosen to commemorate the day, certain provinces like British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Yukon and Nunavut are not recognizing it as a statutory holiday. Yet, in some instances, certain jurisdictions are giving public sector workers and most schools the day off.
Although Ontario has chosen to not treat September 30 and a statutory holiday, anyone who works for a federally regulated company, like Canada Post, will receive a paid day off work. In Cities like Toronto, flags at City Hall and civic centres will fly at half-mast, several landmarks will be lit orange and people are encouraged to take part in various Indigenous cultural events to commemorate the day.
Community leaders encourage the public to learn about Indigenous peoples in their communities and develop an understanding of their history and contributions to society.
In the City of Brampton, the Every Child Matters Flag will fly throughout the week at City Hall to draw more awareness to the occasion. In recognition of the day, Brampton Mayor, Patrick Brown said via a press release: “the City of Brampton recommits to undertaking meaningful action that moves us towards greater accountability and towards achieving Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and their communities.”
The creation of this federal holiday offers an opportunity for people across the nation to pause and reflect on the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system and the journey forward on the path of healing and reconciliation.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter