Canada marks National Day For Truth and Reconciliation: ‘I would hope the Canadian public would show some empathy’

There will be an Every Child Matters Walk in downtown Barrie

Canadians will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.

From coast-to-coast, cities, towns and First Nations will take part in various events to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.

The Every Child Matters Flag was raised at Barrie City Hall on Monday.

Barrie 360- photo-Mayor Jeff Lehman/Twitter

The City is supporting events to promote education and awareness on Thursday. These events are planned in partnership with the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle, the Barrie Native Friendship Centre and the Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin Primary Care Team.

  • Sacred Fire at The Spirit Catcher (24 Maple Ave.) on September 30, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
    The Sacred Fire will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation an honour those who have been impacted by residential schools. All are welcome to reflect, offer a prayer, learn and heal together as a community. Note that COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect: maintain a distance of at least two metres from others, wear a mask if distancing is not possible, and follow all other provincial COVID-19 guidelines.

Ted Williams, Chief of Rama First Nation, says people can mark the day by wearing an orange shirt or an orange ribbon, though he would like Canadians to do “a little homework project” to learn more about why Canada is having the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Ted Williams, Chief of Rama First Nation / Facebook

“They can go online to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and read the report, and not the summary, read the whole report. It’s very lengthy, but if you were to read the whole report you would get a very good flavour as to the challenges that are faced by survivors of the residential school system and its impact on First Nations people across the country.”

As well as the Lighting of the Sacred Fire, there will also be kids activities and an Every Child Matters Walk in downtown Barrie.

Barrie Native Friendship Centre – Barrie 360

Williams says people could spend time on Thursday and read the Indian Act and understand how the First Nation population on First Nations territories are governed and impacted.

“Some bits and pieces of the Indian Act or Canadian law are very outdated,” he says. “Over the course of the Indian Act and its implementation, it governed the movement of First Nations people in every way.”

Rama First Nation will have a commemoration pathway that will acknowledge the children and the residential school system as well as ‘The Sixties Scoop,’ a period in which a series of policies were enacted in Canada that enabled child welfare authorities to take, or “scoop up,” Indigenous children from their families and communities for placement in foster homes, from which they were adopted by white families.

Williams says Thursday will be a healing exercise for many First Nations people.

“It has been very difficult for many people, and the impact of the findings of the lost children in such a horrific and tragic way.”

He says it has had a huge impact on people’s well-being and mental health.

Williams is appreciative area townships, towns and cities have made declarations to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation because he believes the events taking place will have a huge impact on the population in central Ontario.

“I am hoping it will urge individuals to learn more, to find out more, and to begin to understand so that we can continue on a path of reconciliation.”

He says the media has a responsibility to keep the issue of reconciliation at the forefront of the general public.

“There are 94 calls-to-action through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and there are calls-to-action that the media needs to take up on behalf of this issue.”

Legislation passed by the federal government in June recognized Sept. 30 as a federal statutory holiday, making it a paid day off for federal workers and employees in federally regulated workplaces.

The Ontario government only decided early last month not to make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday.

One thing Williams cannot emphasize enough to the public is that this is not a regular day off or a regular day.

“I just want to say that the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is not a holiday. It is the commemorative opportunity to honour those children that were lost in such a tragic manner to the residential school system. I would hope the Canadian public would show some empathy.”