This year, for the first time, September 30 will be observed as a statutory holiday to commemorate the terrible legacy of residential schools in Canada.
This commemoration has come at an unprecedented time in human affairs. As we face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to communities throughout the region and the world, it is important to also reflect on the legacy of residential schools and re-dedicate ourselves to a future of justice, truth and reconciliation.
Since 2013, September 30 has been Orange Shirt Day across Canada. It commemorates the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who created the day. She wore an orange shirt on her first day attending residential school. Her shirt was taken from her when she arrived.
The new holiday reflects one of the 94 calls to action of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission: to establish, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 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.
As a college with a diverse population, CNC recognizes the importance of officially honouring Indigenous peoples. The new holiday aligns with our ongoing commitment and actions to advance reconciliation in partnership with Indigenous nations.
On this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we need to reflect and learn more about our shared history. I encourage you to do so in the following ways:
It has often been noted how education created the residential school tragedy and its intergenerational impacts. Many Indigenous leaders have also said education will support justice, truth, and reconciliation. I wholeheartedly agree with both statements.
There are many ways for us to learn more. In June, our colleagues Marlene Erickson, Corinne George, and Troy Morin offered their perspectives of fostering understanding and contributing to reconciliation. They have sound advice for learning opportunities, creating and becoming allies, and listening without judgment. If you haven’t yet read the feature, I encourage you to do so.
Many members of the CNC community have organized events across the six campuses serving our region. You can find out more on our events page. I’m grateful for their commitment to education and understanding across the CNC community.
A range of events will also take place across Canada. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has more information on their website.
We are fortunate to have September 30th as a day to take part in events. I encourage you to seek out and take part in activities in your communities.
Justice, truth, and reconciliation will not come from a single action or event. We all have an opportunity to learn, understand, and contribute.
I’m encouraged by how CNC’s lhulh whuts’odutel’eh | Learning Together strategic plan includes CNC’s commitment to Indigenization. I’d suggest our vision speaks well to how we can collectively and individually move toward justice, truth and reconciliation:
- lhulh whuts’odutel’eh (we will learn together);
- lhk’enazdulkat (we change ourselves); and
- ·nus ‘uztelelh (we will create the future).