September 30 marked the first annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. Last year, children were missing from Canada’s residential school system and the country did not have the healing it deserved. Here are some things we should know about and pay homage to Indigenous communities.
It Took 94 Calls to Action to Create This National Day
In 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made 94 calls to action and one of them was intended to make a national day tribute the Indigenous community.
Residential schools in Canada closed in 1996, meaning 150 000 children of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit were forced to attend facilities schools, which applied Christian faith and English language, abandoning Aboriginal culture and language. A total of 139 residential schools were funded by the federal government, and most of them were operated by Catholic churches.
According to the TRC’s final report, on average 6,000 children died while attending the schools. However, many believe that number may be as high as 15,000 children.
Although it is now a federal holiday, some provinces prefer not to recognize September 30. We thus expect to see some residential schools remain open on this day.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Queen have issued statements to recognize this day in honouring Indigenous people as a vital part of contributing to the accomplishment of Canada’s goals.
Federal ministers, the Governor General of Canada, Mary Simon, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, then addressed the Senate on Sept. 30. They shared their shame at residential schools being regarded as colonial policies.
Stories From The Survivors
Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Band expressed his surprise that this day was set aside for Canadians to reflect on the painful past of Indigenous people.
“I think it’s a really, really good start. It’s difficult, but it’s a start.”, McLeod stated.
With a fresh positive beginning, Jimmy Duroucher, a Metis man and residential school survivor from Ile-a-la Crosse, Sask., said that it is just the beginning. Duroucher hopes that in 100 years, “the future generations will recognize this data as a milestone in healing the nation and bringing us closer to reconciliation,” he told reporters. (Neustaeter, 2021).
A New Loonie Engraving the Klondike Gold Rush 1890
The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled the newest loonie design, which highlights the Moosehide Gathering place, where the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation were forced to relocate after being displaced by gold-seeking settlers.
The design commemorated the 125th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, which originated in Yukon. The new coin commemorates the experiences and hardships of Indigenous peoples during the 1896 gold rush. The opposite side features a side face of the Queen.
Marie Lemay, President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint expressed her thoughts as the Klondike Gold Rush was a world-changing event and hoped its discovery will become well understood to develop Yukon and transform the Canadian economy. (Landau, 2021)
A New UofT’s Course for Deep Understanding Through Indigenous Lens
Hilding Nelson, an assistant professor at the David A. Dunlap department of astronomy and astrophysics in the Faculty of Arts & Science, created the third-year course “Indigenous Worldviews & Astronomy”, for students who are interested in Indigenous perspectives, ethics, and colonization in science.
Neilson, a Mi’kmaw from the Qalipu First Nation, expressed that viewing astronomy through Western lenses can be limiting. With Indigenous and other knowledge, we bring more lenses that can enrich our understanding. Also, Neilson self-judge himself has become a better scientist through learning Indigenous knowledge, as allowing him to relate and connect with the science more deeply and reflect himself to that knowledge. (MacSween, 2021)
Orange Flags Rising High
September 30 is also named as Orange Shirt Day, major cities in Ontario will lower civic centre flags by lifting the “Every Child Matters” orange flag. Activities like concerts, teaching sessions, outdoor film thrive-ins, etc. are focused on Indigenous history, culture, and films.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Hotline (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours/day for anyone experiencing pain from the Residential school. (Xavier-Carter, 2021)
A devastating year to Canada’s First Nation people as the country’s longest ethnic exists until now, but being ditched its culture and language to another. A federal holiday to commemorate the existence and importance of Indigenous is vital to Canada with enrichment of culture and prosperity.