Sept. 30, 2021, is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Virtual and in-person events will be held across Canada, and some public facilities and schools will be closed to mark the day.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
The day is a direct response to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration to acknowledge those affected by residential schools and educate Canadians.
The House of Commons unanimously supported legislation in June to make Sept. 30 a federally recognized holiday to mark the history of and intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system.
It also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a movement that began on Sept. 30, 2013, when residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation opened up about her trauma caused by residential schools.
Forty years prior, Webstad arrived for her first day of residential school wearing a new orange shirt, but would soon have it taken from her. Orange Shirt Day functions to raise awareness about Indigenous children who had their culture and freedoms ripped away from them.
What is the significance of acknowledging residential schools’ history and trauma this year?
Indigenous people have long suspected that former residential schools had unmarked graveyards that hid their horrific human cost. Hundreds of such graves were reported this summer as First Nations used ground-penetrating radar, archival detective work and the help of experts to find the remains of long-lost loved ones.
Is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a national holiday in Canada?
The statutory holiday applies to all federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces. All federally regulated industries and workplaces will be closed, including banks, post offices and public services.
Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will be recognizing the holiday, closing schools and government offices. Certain municipalities around the country are honouring the day.
Ontario officials say the province is also working to ensure the day is recognized, but stopped short of making it a statutory holiday. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and British Columbia also said they will not be making the day a statutory holiday. Meanwhile, provincial governments are facing calls to change their stance.
Major events in Canada on Sept. 30 marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is calling supporters to Drum for the Children as a way for people to connect and support the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is hosting a week-long virtual event that will bring together Indigenous storytellers, artists, elders, knowledge keepers, survivors, and the children of survivors of residential schools for an immersive learning experience
- There are many in-person vigils and walks planned across the country. Orange Shirt Society lists events from all participating provinces
- Rising Hearts is hosting its first virtual 5-km Remembrance Run in support of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition
- Reconciliation Canada lists both virtual and community events on its blog
What are Indigenous groups and leaders calling on Canadians to do?
As non-Indigenous people in Canada navigate the best way to commemorate and honour survivors and their families, educators and those who were forced to attend the schools are offering advice on what can be done to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Show your support by taking a moment of silence at 2:15 p.m. (referring to the number of graves found in Kamloops). Wear an orange shirt and display an orange light inside or outside your window in an effort to show solidarity.
Learn the history of Indigenous People in Canada
- University of Alberta offers a free, online Indigenous Canada course
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has a trove of records, mini-docs, maps and resources intended for learning and promoting dialogue about the truths of residential school survivors
Recognize your role in the progress that still needs to be made
- Read the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Report
- Research the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which contains testimony from more than 2,380 family members, survivors and experts of violence against Indigenous women
Support authentic Indigenous businesses, artists, experiences and events
- Use Shop First Nations to find Indigenous goods and services to bolster First Nations, Inuit and Métis businesses
- Visit Destination Indigenous if you are looking for an immersive experience of traditional Indigenous culture through storytelling and culinary experiences on Indigenous territories
- Click buyauthentic.ca for a hub that helps consumers find and purchase Indigenous merchandise showcasing craftsmanship that has been passed along for generations
Learn how to properly acknowledge the land we live on
- Visit native-land.ca to see whose traditional land you live on, and learn the names and geographical areas of other territories
If you require support
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation may conjure up difficult emotions as part of the reflection process. You are encouraged to reach out:
- Crisis Services Canada 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
- Hope For Wellness Helpline for Indigenous peoples, 1-855-242-3310
- Native Youth Crisis Line 1-877-209-1266
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides emotional and crisis referral services at a 24-hour line, 1-866-925-4419
- Never forget: Indigenous storytelling and the importance of remembering
- Journalist Jesse Wente has spent a lifetime being uncomfortable. Join him, won’t you?
With files from Kristy Kirkup, Joe Friesen, Globe Staff, and The Canadian Press
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