National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Every Year September 30th will mark as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — an annual commemoration honouring the children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential school system. On June 5, 2021, Bill C-5, which created a statutory holiday to commemorate the legacy of residential schools in Canada, received royal assent after passing unanimously in the Senate. The decision was fast-tracked following the “Kamloops discovery” of roughly 200 potential burial sites, likely of children, on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Many residential schools were started when the Indian Act was passed in 1876, a change was made to the Act 1n 1896 so that all First Nations children had to go to school. Most of the First Nation communities were located far away from schools, so they were forced to go to residential schools. Children were forcibly taken from their families by priests, Indian agents and police officers. At the residential schools, these children were forced to give up their cultures, they were given new names, and were not allowed to speak their mother tongues or visit their families.
Between 1831 and 1998, there were 140 federally aided Indian Residential Schools operated under the Catholic church administration in Canada. The last school, Gordon Residential School, Saskatchewan closed in 1996. The abuse that the children faced in residential schools was shocking, cruelty and physical and sexual abuse were all over the schools. During over 100 years’ of residential school history, it’s assumed that there were more than 150,000 children in Canadian residential schools and thousands died due to abuse, malnutrition and illness etc.
Many provinces and territories will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a designated holiday and day off for students. However, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario have chosen not to recognize Sept.30th as a stat holiday.
September 30th is already marked as Orange Shirt Day since 2013. In May 2013, the St. Joseph Mission Commemoration Project and Reunion brought Residential School survivors and their families together at Williams Lake, BC. The meeting encourages all Canadians to wear orange to raise awareness of the very tragic legacy of residential schools and to honour the thousands of Survivors.
On July 25, 2022, Pope Francis – the head of the Catholic Church – apologized for the harm done by the Catholic church to the First Nation communities. Doing his 4 days visit to Canada, Pope Francis apologized multiple times for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the residential school system in Canada. He begged for forgiveness for abuses committed by some members of the church as well as for cultural destruction and forced assimilation.