September 30th, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Created as a response to Truth and Reconiliation Call to Action 80, this day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.
“We are committed to Active Listening, Prayer and Right Action as we journey with our Indigenous Sisters and Brothers in a spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.”
Patrick Daly, OCSTA President
The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent. The date was chosen because it is the time of year in which children were taken from their homes to residential schools. Since 2013 this date has been known as Orange Shirt Day – an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not.
This day relates to the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, on her first day of school, where she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt, which was taken from her. It is now a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.
Remembering Through Action
On September 30, all Canadians are encouraged to wear orange to raise awareness of the very tragic legacy of residential schools, and to honour the thousands of Survivors.
Catholic school boards across Ontario are recognizing this day in various ways and below is an expanding list of Catholic school board links that we invite you to visit.
Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board
The Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board is acknowledging the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation through local and district-wide initiatives including:
- White Pine Tree Planting Ceremony involving a survivor of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School which operated in Brantford, Ontario from 1828 to 1970. A white pine is a symbol of peace in the Indigenous culture.
- Collections and donations provided to the Mohawk Village Memorial Park; a park that is being developed to help individuals move forward in healing, as a result of the ongoing and generational damage caused by the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
- Acknowledging the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation through prayer and learning at a Liturgy of the Word.
- Truth and Reconciliation Awareness Week teaching and learning in the classroom with focus on the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
- Students are creating, through visual art, a representation of their commitment to solidarity.
- Display of Every Child Matters lawn signs posted that include Indigenous student artwork.
- Orange lights, that illuminate in the evening, have been installed in trees outside schools to represent each of the lives lost at former Indian Residential Schools.
- The district launched the https://twitter.com/bhnindigenoused Twitter account (@BHNIndigenousEd) this week. We now have a social site dedicated to Indigenous initiatives, services, supports, events, and other items that share our commitment to Indigenous Education and true Truth and Reconciliation.
- Wearing of orange shirts on September 30th.
Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board
To support teachers and staff, Orange Shirt Day essential resources and links have been compiled on the Orange Shirt Day site. The Site has resources to help facilitate learning about Residential Schools for all levels. On another format, we also have STEPS to National Reconciliation Day
For primary students, teach around feelings of loss and loneliness, And the symbols that symbolize the day. Read one of many books written for children.
Junior students can begin to learn and understand the emotional and physical abuse. Learning about the injustice of having to leave family to go to school.
Intermediate/senior students can learn the details of the abuse and the effects upon people and communities. The study of colonization and how that played an important role in the development and implementation of residential schools.
The Indigenous Education Site is another place where you can find a multitude of resources and information on this and many other topics as well.
This year Orange Shirt Day will kick off 10 Days of Truth where we will encourage our junior and intermediate staff and students to participate in learning leading up to
Durham Catholic District School Board
In recognition of the lives lost, DCDSB will be planting 25,000 tulips to honour the Indigenous peoples whose lives have been lost due to the residential school system. Staff, students, and families are invited to donate towards the planting of each tulip, and a donation portal in School Messenger will be available for families if they should choose to donate.
All funds raised from the Tulips for Truth initiative will go to The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. The First National Child and Family Caring Society is a non-profit organization that was started by Squamish First Nation in 1998 and is led by Dr Cindy Blackstock who saw the inequities for Indigenous youth and families in accessing health and education services.
The Durham CDSB includes an outstanding array of indigenous education resources, timely facts and other relevant information on this section of their website.
Halton Catholic District School Board
Vist the Halton CDSB Truth and Reconciliation Week web page.
Kenora Catholic District School Board
“At the Kenora Catholic District School Board we recognize the importance of taking meaningful steps towards reconciliation with our FNMI families and communities. With the announcement of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and in the lead-up to Orange Shirt Day, Kenora Catholic will be offering programming to students on a variety of topics throughout the entire week.
While this initiative is a small part of our journey, we know it is important to speak with students about the impact residential schools had and continue to have on its survivors and their families while also celebrating the incredible teachings and traditions that FNMI culture brings to our schools.”
London District Catholic School Board
The London DCSB has produced this poignant video to honour our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board
Nipissing-Parry Sound St. Joseph-Scollard Hall teacher Tory Fisher, Indigenous Graduation Coach Jordan Mowat, and the NSL students have collaborated to create a video which will be made available for viewing by September 30. NPSC elementary schools also have a variety of activities planned for the day. These activities all help to make Truth & Reconciliation a reality in our schools so that we can continue to walk forward together.
For more details and resources, please visit www.npsc.ca.
Ottawa Catholic School Board
In addition to various activities, programs and online events for students and families, the Ottawa Catholic School Board is offering to educators and staff online webinars provided by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to support deeper understanding regarding the history and intergenerational impact of the Residential School system.
Visit the Truth and Reconliation Week page at OCSB.
Renfrew County Catholic District School Board
Among the various activities and programs taking place at the Renfrew County CDSB are the following key initiatives:
Assembly/Prayer Service: Distinctive elementary and secondary prayer services provided from a central source for staff and students.
Sharing Circle: with Elder Dan Ross (Pikwakanagan First Nations) on September 22nd at 3:30pm for anyone who would like to attend.
Tree Planting: To memorialize the victims and survivors of residential schools, each school will receive a tree to plant, possibly in the spring.
Toronto Catholic District School Board
The Toronto Catholic DSB has a number of opportunities for students and staff to participate in commemorative initiatives for the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation. These include:
- A moment of silence and an “Every Child Matters” flag raising ceremony at every TCDSB school and facility.
- A large 20×30 Every Child Matters flag unveiling, followed by a flag raising ceremony and an Orange Shirt art installation created by students at Cardinal Carter Academy featured at our Catholic Education Centre (TCDSB head office).
- A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Virtual Presentation will be made available to all TCDSB students and staff, and led by a First Nation NBA Entertainer named Quincy Mac. Quincy is part of an Indigenous organization and this presentation will see students from across Ontario hear from Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad, as well as other members of the Métis, Inuit and First Nations communities. Quincy will also be sharing valuable resources for staff ahead of this presentation.
- A social media campaign, where each school will be making their own school-specific “Call to Action”, akin to the TRC’s Calls to Action. We will be featuring each school’s Call on our website, TCDSB.org.
The Toronto CDSB has also created a resource package to support teaching and learning about residential schools. The TCDSB encourages schools to engage in learning as appropriate to the age and readiness of students. It is hoped “that this learning will also support the themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, and most importantly foster a sense of belonging and inclusion rooted in the belief that we are created in the image and likeness of a loving God.”
Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important way to honour both the lost children and survivors of residential schools, but also a reminder of the need to move our country toward healing throughout the entire year, according to the Windsor-Essex CDSB Director of Education Emelda Byrne.
“As part of our commitment to healing, we will solemnly recognize this day as a school board community,” Byrne said, “however, we also recognize the need for ongoing learning and sharing of the truth by educating our students about reconciliation in age appropriate ways. And healing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is really a central part of our vision of building communities of faith, hope and service.”
View the video “Honouring Diversity: Truth and Reconciliation” – https://youtu.be/6MgTTW3W8u4
The new logo for WECDSB’s Indigenous Education program is Miishiikaii (meh-she-kah) or turtle. The turtle was chosen as our symbol, as many Indigenous nations and cultures have a special relationship with the turtle. North America is also termed “Miishiikaii Miiniss” or Turtle Island. This image and important accompanying teachings demonstrate our strong connection to our natural world and the underlying concept that “we are all related” -all things are connected.