Thursday marked the nation’s first Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a day to commemorate the children who died in residential schools across Canada, survivors and their families, and the communities impacted by this dark chapter in Canadian history.
In Barrie, the day was recognized with a gathering at the city’s waterfront. A sacred fire was lit near the monument at 6 a.m. and will burn until 4 p.m. An Every Child Matters walk took place Thursday morning, starting from the Spirit Catcher, progressing through Meridian Place and along Dunlop Street to the Five Points, before proceeding down Bayfield Street and back to the Spirit Catcher.
“It’s just about the people coming out, showing their support, wearing the orange shirts, talking about orange shirt day. And about Phyllis’ story about why we wear orange. And about the tragedy that is part of our history in Canada with the residential schools,” Samantha Kinoshameg, Executive Director of the Barrie Native Friendship Centre, told Barrie 360.
Orange Shirt Day recognizes 6-year-old Phyllis Webstad of Dog Creek Reserve in British Columbia, who wore an orange shirt on her first day at a residential school in 1973. After her clothes were stripped from her, the orange shirt became a symbol of the mistreatment of Indigenous children.
Kinoshameg reminds us those who were forced to attend these schools are not the only victims. “It’s one of those interesting concepts where there are effects for the people who attended residential school and their direct descendants. But there are also ripple effects for the families and communities of people who didn’t go to school,” she said. “There was knowledge breakdown, family breakdowns, lots of interruption in how we transmit knowledge, how we share things in our communities, and how we do those things.”
The Barrie Public Library has compiled a catalogue of resources and literature to help us learn more about the Canadian residential school system and its lasting impacts on survivors. A collection of child-friendly literature is also being offered so that we can all take the time to learn more about Canada’s dark past.
Everyone is urged to read the reports authored by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, available online.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24/7 for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school crisis at 1-866-925-4419.