Local Leaders Share Thoughts on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Today is the first ever National Day of Reconciliation, and there were a number of activities around Guelph to mark the day. Many local politicians have also marked the day by making special statements,  wearing orange shirts, and speaking to the need to address long-standing Indigenous issues that come from centuries of systemic racism and genocide. Here are some official statements from local leaders and all levels of government.

Mayor Cam Guthrie

I encourage all members of the community to take time to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation today, by taking part in activities that support learning and understanding.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities. It is a day to commemorate and reflect on the shameful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools in Canada.

Today is also Orange Shirt Day – a day when we honour the children who survived residential schools, remember those who did not, and affirm that every child matters.

Earlier this year, our hearts broke as unmarked graves of Indigenous children were found at former residential schools. We resolved to continue to learn the truths of the lands we call home, and to walk alongside our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

Today is a key opportunity to explore the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences, and stories of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people.

There can be no reconciliation without truth, and truth begins with learning.

As we mark Canada’s first day for Truth and Reconciliation, let’s join communities across Canada in embracing this day as a key moment on our learning journey.

Councillor Leanne Caron

Truth and Reconciliation. Today has to be about much, more more than wearing an orange shirt. As a mother, I tried to imagine this morning my healthy, well-loved, well-cared for children being forcibly taken from me.

And then, to know that they had been taken to a place where they were unfed, abused, unloved. Or worse, they died, alone, scared and in pain. To think of them crying for me in the night “mama” and being helpless to comfort them. That’s the TRUTH part.

The TRUTH makes me feel sick. Now it’s time for RECONCILIATION. Beyond wearing the shirt, we must implement ALL of the recommendations in the TRC report within this generation. The new federal govt, the Province, our city govt, and each of us individually plays a role.

Grade 11 Cree student Shayne Hommy from Dawson Creek is the artist behind this shirt. She said, “My Moosum (grandfather) attended residential school so it means a lot to me that someone I love and care about so much had to experience residential school.”

“My design is three little Indigenous girls from different tribes, holding hands to represent the unity of our people, (Indigenous peoples) and strength throughout the many years of suffering Indigenous peoples had to face.” Shayne Hommy, Grade 11 artist.

Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner

On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we are listening, learning and reflecting. Learning about the traumatic, dark and racist legacy that we are reminded of every time new unmarked graves are uncovered across the country. And listening to the stories of Indigenous communities and the calls to actions by Indigenous leaders.

We cannot make progress on meaningful reconciliation until the truth has been uncovered and accepted by all.

The truth is that genocide is part of Ontario and Canada’s history. And we must face that reality as we work to dismantle colonialism.

Confronting the truth means educating all Ontarians about the atrocities of colonialism and the history of residential schools.

That’s why it’s important to reinstitute the Indigenous curriculum writing session that the Ford government cancelled in 2018 to include more Indigenous content written by Indigenous scholars and the history of residential schools.

Because that horrific history perpetuates today in the form of systemic discrimination and racism that Indigenous peoples face.

The racism that results in a violation of the most basic human rights, like access to clean water and shelter. And the racism Indigenous peoples face in our medical, policing and education systems.

By working together and uplifting Indigenous voices, we can build a better society that addresses colonialism, systemic racism, white supremacy and oppression head on.

Today, and every day, Ontario Greens are fully committed to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Ontarians are good people. So let’s continue to listen and learn so that we can accept the truth of the past and correct the wrongs of the present as we build a better Ontario and Canada for generations to come.

Warden Kelly Linton from the County of Wellington

September 30th has become an important day in Canada. A new federal statutory holiday, today is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. September 30th has additional significance as Orange Shirt Day. On this day, we reflect on the devastating damage residential schools have caused to many Indigenous children and their families. It also reaffirms the universal truth that every child matters.

I want to pause and reflect on the actions the County has taken recently to honour our unique Indigenous roots here in Wellington.

Firstly, I want to thank our own Indigenous Advisory Committee – the IAC – for all the important work that you have done to explore and promote the County’s Indigenous history and culture. Thanks Colleen, Tammy, Amber, Gayle and Jennie.

Thanks to the IAC for creating a T-shirt design in recognition of Every Child Matters, and thanks to County Council Members and staff for purchasing and taking photos in these shirts this morning to demonstrate our support for reconciliation efforts.

All funds raised from the sale of the shirts will be donated to the Anishnabeg Outreach Healing Lodge and Wellness Programme. This programme provides counselling support services for residential school survivors.

Councillors will also notice the new bronze plaque we have here in our Council Chamber. I know that some of you took photos in your orange shirts beside this plaque. This plaque commemorates the Indigenous Land and Acknowledgement Ceremony held on December 11, 2020.

This plaque was smudged by our Indigenous Advisory Committee yesterday.

I want to also mention a few other actions that have been taken by our IAC:

Bi-monthly newsletter highlighting National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and education resources available for County employees.

Today, there will be a virtual Lunch and Learn hosted by the IAC focusing on stories from residential school survivors. This session will be recorded and made available on the internal website, The Well, for further viewing. It will also be made available to all members of council.

10 copies of Gord Downie’s “Secret Path” will be given away to County employees in a draw.

Promotion of Indigenous Canada training to all County of Wellington employees. This is free training is offered online through the University of Alberta.

In addition, in recognition of the important work of the IAC members and supporting their further development, the County is investing in the members by allowing them the opportunity to enroll in an online training bundle through Indigenous Corporate Training. Topics to be covered include Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Consultation and Engagement, Indigenous Employment, How to Negotiate with Indigenous Peoples as well as Working with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The County’s actions are not just symbolic gestures. They are real, they are authentic, and they are meaningful.

Thanks again to our Indigenous Advisory Committee, thanks to our CAO for your leadership on this, thanks to Susan Farrelly, Director of Human Resources, for your oversight and direction and thanks to County Council for your unwavering support.

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