TORONTO — On the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, prominent voices from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are sharing their thoughts on what the day means to them and what they hope it means to Canadians.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald:
“Today, and every day, I stand in support of Survivors and intergenerational trauma Survivors. I honour September 30 as a day of remembrance and grief, and I lift up Phyllis Webstad. She was a young First Nations girl, who had her shiny, new orange shirt taken from her upon arriving at a institution known as the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. She survived the institution, told her story and in 2013, the orange shirt campaign to commemorate all of the Survivors was launched in Williams Lake. Today and every day, let’s hold a vision of happy healthy children surrounded by the love and care of their families in safe, vibrant communities. Every child matters and our little ones have an inherent right to safety, love and happiness. I also welcome the designation of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to remind all Canadians of the harms done to our little ones.”
Inuit Circumpolar Council President Monica Ell-Kanayuk:
“The creation of a national day for truth and reconciliation is an important step towards healing. Healing takes time, in some cases it will take a lifetime. Many Inuit are on the healing path. Our communities need healing as a result of the intergenerational trauma passed down from relatives over the decades. A day like this allows everyone in Canada to reflect on what happened as a result of the residential schools. This year especially, with the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children on the grounds of former residential schools, we have reason to pause and reflect on the profound meaning of truth and reconciliation.”
Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon:
“As we mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I think back to how my childhood shaped me. How so many in our community, and thousands more Indigenous children across Canada, were ripped away from their homes, separated from their families and sent to residential schools, where they were not allowed to speak their languages or honour their cultures, and were punished if they did.
As the child of a white father and an Inuk mother, I was not allowed to attend. I stayed behind, home-schooled, and visited families where there was a palpable void. I was a stand-in, a well-loved substitute, for mothers and fathers who desperately missed their children.
We all felt it. The sorrow of missing a part of our community.
Since the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the publication of Calls to Action—and more recently, with the discoveries of unmarked graves of residential school children—Canada’s real history has been laid bare. The legacy of colonization has had devastating repercussions for Indigenous peoples, including the loss of language, culture and heritage. This pain has been felt from generation to generation, and it continues today.
These are uncomfortable truths, and often hard to accept. But the truth also unites us as a nation, brings us together to dispel anger and despair, and embrace justice, harmony and trust instead.
Reconciliation is a way of life, continuous, with no end date. It is learning from our lived experiences and understanding one another. It is creating the necessary space for us to heal. It is planting seeds of hope and respect so that our garden blooms for our children.
As we strive to acknowledge the horrors of the past, the suffering inflicted on Indigenous peoples, let us all stand side-by-side with grace and humility, and work together to build a better future for all.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (full statement here):
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about the history of residential schools in Canada, listen to the stories of survivors and their families, and reflect on how each of us can play a part in the journey of reconciliation. I also encourage everyone to wear an orange shirt today to help spread awareness, because every child matters.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole (full statement here):
“In order for Canada to reach its full potential as a nation, reconciliation must be central to these efforts. This starts with public commemoration, education, and conversations about the painful and lasting impacts of residential schools. Canada’s Conservatives will continue to support Indigenous children, families, and communities, and advocate for meaningful and measurable action to advance reconciliation in this country.”
Queen Elizabeth II:
“I join with all Canadians on this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to reflect on the painful history that Indigenous peoples endured in residential schools in Canada, and on the work that remains to heal and to continue to build an inclusive society.”
If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.