Today marks the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. For years before that though it was known as Orange Shirt Day, a chance to stop, think, and remember all the Indigenous children stolen from their homes, and then taken before their time through an apparatus of abuse and colonization known as the residential school system. Here are some of the thoughts of provincial and national leaders on this day.
Mike Schreiner – Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader
“Confronting the truth and addressing the reality of Indigenous Peoples’ experiences is fundamental to our observance of this second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
This truth hurts, but the pain gives us insight into the horrendous acts of the past that have taken such a terrible toll on Indigenous Peoples, their cultures, traditions, languages, and identities. And it motivates us to heal relationships to build a better and more just future.
On this and every September 30, we remember and honour the hundreds of young lives lost and also those who survived the brutal residential school system. It’s a history that haunts Indigenous Peoples to this day, unleashing fresh trauma every time a burial site is discovered.
The search for those who never returned home from the residential schools must continue. It is one step and there is still a long way to go.
The trauma of colonialism is real and ongoing healing is needed to build a better future for present and future generations.
As well, ongoing, continuous, and conscious actions are needed to dismantle the systemic racism that still pervades our society.
Ontario Greens are fully committed to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Promoting and amplifying Indigenous cultures, traditions, and voices is an important part of the journey toward reconciliation.”
Doug Ford – Premier of Ontario
“Ontario is observing the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Today, we will take the time to learn and reflect on the dark legacy of the Indian Residential School system and its impacts on Indigenous communities. We honour the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, as well as those who did not make it home, and acknowledge the ongoing trauma experienced by survivors, families, and communities.
September 30th also marks Orange Shirt Day thanks to the courage of Phyllis Jack Webstad, a survivor from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation who attended St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia. On her first day of school, Phyllis proudly wore an orange shirt given to her by her grandmother. When she arrived, the shirt was immediately taken away from her by school staff, marking the beginning of Phyllis’s long and traumatic separation from her family and community, and from her culture and language.
People in Ontario and across Canada wear orange shirts to remember and honour Indigenous children who were taken from their communities and families and forced to attend Residential Schools.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day are an important part of Ontario’s journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. The province will be lighting several government buildings orange to honour survivors, their families and the children who did not return home.
Ontarians are encouraged to learn about and reflect on the intergenerational harm that Indian Residential Schools have caused Indigenous families and communities, and to honour and commemorate those who have been affected. There are many learning sources available to deepen the understanding of the legacy of the Indian Residential School system and the impacts it continues to have today. The government has highlighted some of these resources at Ontario.ca/LearnTheLegacy.
Today, we listen to Indigenous voices and ensure they are heard loudly and clearly. We know there is a long road ahead, but it is a road we will walk together in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.”
Sol Mamakwa – MPP for Kiiwetinoong and NDP critic for Indigenous and Treaty Relations
“As the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is upon us, we must reflect deeply on why this day is important, and how it brings us together. We must acknowledge that our history together since contact has not always been good, and that its long shadow is felt in our present. And so, the present dictates that we must come together in a good way, in the spirit of truth and ‘reconciliation.’
Reconciliation can be an act of performance, or it can be the product of reflecting on the past, healing and making right. We cannot have reconciliation without truth. For many years, Indian Residential School survivors spoke of their firsthand experience of the abuse inflicted upon them, where many children were killed and buried in unmarked graves. The reality is that most Canadians did not accept this as truth, and it wasn’t until our children’s remains were unearthed by the hundreds, and then thousands, that the truth could not be ignored.
As we journey together on this land we now call Canada, we must never forget the former students — the survivors — of the Indian Residential Schools system. While we engage in actions, events and conversations centred on reconciliation, we must never leave anyone behind. There are survivors who still carry the unforgettable scars, burdens, and the unforgiving trauma from their lived experiences.
I cannot overstate the impact colonial oppression continues to have even today – the intergenerational and transgenerational effects of trauma on Indigenous Peoples and nations is real, and still far too visible. On this day, let’s think of all those who continue to suffer from the lasting effects of the legacy. Reach out to them, and re-assure them that they have not been forgotten.
We need to understand the past in order to build a better present, and stronger future, together. On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I encourage people to participate in public events of mourning, reflection and education. And I continue to ask the government of Ontario to recognize Sept. 30 as a statutory day off so everyone is able to observe this solemn occasion.
As Canadians and Ontarians, we all play a role in reconciliation. If we can approach people with understanding rather than judgement, break down the structures of oppression, and heal together, reconciliation is possible.”
Justin Trudeau – Prime Minister of Canada
“Today, we mark the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – an opportunity to come together to reflect on the legacy of residential schools and the ongoing impacts on Survivors, their families and communities, as well as commit to continuing the hard, but necessary work to build a better future for all.
“Between 1831 and 1998, at least 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were forcibly removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools, where they had to abandon their languages, cultures, spiritualities, traditions, and identities. Many experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and thousands never came home. The experiences and intergenerational trauma of these so-called schools continue to live on for Indigenous Peoples across the country every single day.
“It is our shared responsibility to confront the legacy of residential schools and the ongoing impacts on Indigenous Peoples, so we can truly move forward together. That is why, last year, Parliament voted unanimously to establish the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more, honour the Survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities, and remember the many children who never returned home. Reconciliation is not the responsibility of Indigenous Peoples – it is the responsibility of all Canadians. It is our responsibility to continue to listen and to learn.
“This past July, His Holiness Pope Francis offered an apology to Survivors, their families, and their communities here in Canada, and recognized the abuses experienced at residential schools that resulted in cultural destruction, loss of life, and ongoing trauma for Indigenous Peoples across the country. It was a step forward in all the work that remains and a reminder that we still have more to do. We will continue to be there to support the painful but necessary work to locate unmarked graves, and to support Survivors as they tell their stories, including through the efforts of the Independent Special Interlocutor for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites, Kimberly Murray, who was appointed this past June. We are also ensuring the appropriate supports are available for communities to heal and commemorate the lives that were lost.
“Last month, alongside the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation leadership, Survivors, and members of Indigenous communities, I witnessed the Survivors’ Flag raising on Parliament Hill to honour Survivors and all the lives that have been or continue to be impacted by the residential school system. The flag serves as a reminder of the government’s commitment to Survivors and future generations to never forget what happened at these so-called schools. Over the last year, we updated Canada’s Oath of Citizenship to recognize First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights, and introduced legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation to track and report on the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Through the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we continue to work with Indigenous Peoples to ensure their human rights are fully recognized, respected, and protected.
“On this day, which is also known as Orange Shirt Day, I invite everyone to listen to Survivors and learn more about the history and legacy of the residential school system by participating in a local event or wearing an orange shirt. Let’s take a moment today to participate, learn, and reflect. We all have a role to play on the journey toward reconciliation.”
Mary Simon – Governor General of Canada
Today is an important day, not just for Indigenous peoples, but for all Canadians. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day to reflect and to remind ourselves that when we acknowledge truth, listen to one another, and work together, we can build a more prosperous country where all of us have equal access to services and opportunities.
Reconciliation is all around us. It isn’t limited to just one day, one moment, one act. In the past year, I have seen truth and reconciliation in action. I have seen it in school children learning about our true history. I have seen it in communities celebrating their cultural heritage. I have seen it in the stories of Indigenous successes and challenges, told by Survivors, Elders, leaders, storytellers, traditional healers, community members and youth. I have seen the hope in reconciliation.
Of course, Canada has more work to do. Reconciliation is committing ourselves to ongoing understanding and respect. It is remembering the pain caused by residential schools and the children who never made it home. But it is also celebrating joyful cultural expressions. Because this day is a mixture of every emotion, just like life itself.
It has been heartening to see Canadians moving forward side by side and I will continue to champion Indigenous languages, culture and healing. I ask that you join me on this journey and I encourage you to start the conversation at school, at work, at home: What will you do, today, tomorrow and every day, to be part of a better Canada, one that reflects us all?
Jagmeet Singh – MP for Burnaby South and Federal NDP Leader
“Today, Canadians across the country honour the children who never returned home, Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. We also reflect on our collective history of colonialism and genocide and how it continues to impact Survivors, families and communities today. As unmarked graves continue to be uncovered, today is a reminder of the harm caused and the work to be done.
This day of reflection would not have been possible without the advocacy of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Leaders, and we commend their commitment to fighting for a better future for all Indigenous people. Governments at every level need to take concrete steps toward reconciliation by listening, learning, and working with Indigenous leaders and communities to advance justice for Indigenous people.
Despite tireless advocacy, the federal government is still denying Indigenous communities much of the funding they have requested for discovering the remains at former residential schools and healing programs. Across the country, there are still 32 long-term boil water advisories in effect in 28 communities, and at least 45 short-term drinking waters advisories in Indigenous communities. More troubling, as Indigenous women and girls face an ongoing genocide, the government has failed to build new shelters to help Indigenous women and gender-diverse people and children flee violence.
New Democrats know more action is needed to advance reconciliation. We will continue to work to harmonize Canada’s laws with UNDRIP and to implement all Calls to Action and Calls for Justice. We are committed to helping survivors heal, lifting all boil water advisories, and ensuring Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people can thrive in safe environments. Today, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, New Democrats reaffirm our commitment to advance reconciliation in true and equal partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.”