The inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is being met with a mix of hope and sadness from some Indigenous leaders ahead of the commemoration of Thursday’s milestone.
The hope, he says, is that there is a reckoning with a long, often denied history, and that wider attention may eventually be given to stories that were overlooked for so long.
Sadly, he says, there are already signs that many are not accepting the day and the opportunities it presents.
This is such a small, yet such an important step in the eyes of many on such a long journey to Canada.
The newly anointed federal statutory holiday follows the rediscovery in the past year of hundreds of unmarked graves near former residential schools in various parts of Canada.
Designating September 30 as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation aims to honor the suffering children in the residential school system and trauma survivors still experience.
The designation is also a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 80, which stated that the federal government would work with Indigenous peoples to “create a statutory mandate to honor the survivors, their families and communities, and to ensure the public commemoration of history.” day to be established.” And the legacy of residential schools is an important component of the reconciliation process.”
“There were many things that were guided by the survivors themselves, through their stories, through their ideas and recommendations. Fulfilling them is part of it,” says Reg Niganobe, head of the Anishinabek Grand Council.
“Forgiveness and all those kinds of things help with that healing process. It’s a certain acceptance for them.”
But some provincial governments, including Ontario, have refused to adopt September 30 as a new provincial statutory holiday. Meanwhile, provinces including Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will recognize on September 30.
The star spoke to several Indigenous leaders about their hopes for the tradition starting this week – and their response to the resistance they have already faced.
Here’s what he said.
Reg Niganobe, head of the Anishinabek Grand Council
Niganobe observes Thursday as a dedicated day when people can hear stories of survivors and be educated about history.
He plans to bring his young son and daughter to Spanish Indian residential schools west of Sudbury in northern Ontario, where his father, aunts and uncles were sent.
“There will be people who don’t understand that they are there for (a) intended purpose,” he acknowledged. “But I mean it happens with every holiday… They are important days for those who decide to value them and decide to use them to the best of their ability, If they choose to do so. “
Niganobe said it was disappointing that many provinces and territories have decided not to make September 30 a provincial statutory holiday to give people time to celebrate it.
At the very least, he said, schools should be closed as a reflection of the legacy of residential schools in Canada.
“This is to an extent of downplaying the seriousness of the situation,” he said.
“It is the survivors who helped guide those recommendations and facilitated those recommendations. They had to tell their stories to get to that point. And if one day a recommendation is made, it should be respected. “
Niganobe hopes that Canadians can take the time this Thursday to peruse the educational material there, whether it is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reports, or publications of Indigenous scholars or personal stories of survivors.
Mark Hill, elected head of the Six Nations of the Grand River
At Six Nations of the Grand River, the band is giving out free lawn signs and flags to council members to celebrate the day. The orange sign, with handprints in the background, read in white letters, “Respect every child” and “Because every child counts.”
Elected head Mark Hill said his community has long been striving for residential school survivors, sharing their stories and campaigning to raise awareness and support for the restoration of the former Mohawk Institute residential school. Is.
“It’s about educating. It’s about awareness. It’s about respecting the survivors of our residential school. And it’s about respecting our children and their families and their communities,” Hill he said.
He said it was disappointing and disappointing that the Ontario government has not designated September 30 as a statutory holiday. To him and the community, he said, it shows that indigenous ties are not important to the province.
Still, at Six Nations, its 800 employees are not only encouraged to wear orange throughout the week, but they will also be given a day off. a Candlelight Vigil at Chiefswood Park in Ohswaken, to speak with survivors and Hill at the event, which will be livestreamed via Facebook.
“We are giving our employees a day off. It’s not like they’re just taking it as a holiday. We have asked them to connect with their children, their families, their neighbors, their friends and talk about what the day means to them,” Hill said.
“We actually created a hashtag #SNOrangeShirtDay. We want our employees to present to our supervisors, managers, and et cetera, pictures, quotes, poems, maybe a little journal of the day.”
As for other Canadians, Hill wants them to keep an open mind and read about history from an Indigenous perspective. That said, they can visit an area or reserve to make connections with indigenous people, or talk to an elder and reach out to a residential school survivor..
“If we have that mutual respect and mutual understanding, we’re going to make Canada a better place,” he said. “We can’t go back in time. What happened has happened. Now we need to get over it. And it’s going to take a long time to recover. But we need to get on that path together.”
Mike Sack is the head of the Sipecanatic First Nation
Mike Sack is the head of the Sipecanatic First Nation, a Mi’kmaq band in Nova Scotia that has found itself at the center of controversy since launching its medium livelihood fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia last September.
The fact that the federal government has finally accepted a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation leaves them with mixed feelings, he says.
“On the one hand, I am extremely grateful to everyone and to every Canadian who is taking the time to reflect and acknowledge. But on the other hand, I have always thought that the government is speaking truth and reconciliation.. Not enough action is actually being taken to go ahead with it.
“Truth and reconciliation have been talked about for many years. And you still got First Nations without drinking water. You still have our people who are not allowed to exercise their inherent rights.”
He said that acknowledging Thursday as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, while still a small step, provides the basis for the kind of reflection that might affect future generations.
“People think residential schools were in the 1800s and last closed in 1996. And in my community, I know we’re still dealing with the effects of it daily. I just want people to do it. Feel it,” he said.
“It is a big deal to pass on that knowledge to your children; Helping children understand so that we can move forward and end racism forever – that’s a big deal. But kids are our future, and that’s where we start.”