On September 30, I encourage you to wear an orange shirt to honour and remember the experiences and loss of the thousands of children who were stolen from their families and placed in Indian Residential Schools.
Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, I believe it’s a first step in the right direction for our federal government.
The date September 30 was decided as it complements Orange Shirt Day, which is a day to remember the legacy of residential schools. September is symbolic as it has historically been a painful month for Indigenous families and communities because it is the time when children went back to residential schools.
Today I will wear my orange shirt proudly to honour First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Survivors and their families and communities and to ensure that public commemoration of their history and the legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
I have lived in the North and have seen firsthand how the federal government has destroyed a culture of people. This is Canada’s history and it should not be ignored. Speak the truth even if your voice shakes, the very fact that Indigenous children were forced to attend Indian Residential Schools demonstrates the unjust and genocidal practices of the Canadian government of the time. Yes, I used the word genocidal and I meant it.
While working North of 60 I met many individuals whose lives were stolen by the Canadian government as they intended to remove the Indian from the child with Residential Schools. Their stories are truly heartbreaking. Some survived, some didn’t. The trauma and cultural harm of not being allowed to speak their language or practice their traditional ceremonies continues to have a devastating impact on many to this day. In a residential school, I was told by one survivor that she experienced sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, words, and unwanted fondling with hands from the priests and masters. Wake up Canada this is our history. Our children, who were stolen from our land by the government and forced into Residential Schools where they were abused. On this day remember the children who fought to survive each day, deprived of their childhood by being forced to grow up in residential school. Also, we should remember the children who didn’t survive and now lay in unmarked graves throughout Canada. I was told by one survivor that some of the children were buried alive. Think about that. An innocent child buried alive, it’s truly disheartening. But it’s the truth. A truth we should never forget.
I am hopeful that marking this important day each year to focus on the truth will bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people closer to Reconciliation in Canada. The inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is about commemorating and honouring real people, families, and communities who were treated reprehensibly by the Canadian government.
On September 30, wear your Orange Shirt and take a moment to really think about what it means to you, and to Indian Residential School Survivors. I encourage everyone to learn more and do more so we can collectively make Canada a better place that truly includes Indigenous people and is based on mutual respect.
Remember Indian Residential School Survivors live among us in the Lakeland Region. Every child matters, please wear your orange shirt today, I am.