September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, when we recognize the ongoing trauma caused by residential and day schools, and remember those who never returned home, survivors and their families. It is also an opportunity to commit to the process of truth, reconciliation and justice with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Toronto and across Canada.
This holiday was proposed in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which under Action 80 called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish a statutory holiday “to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.”
This built on Indigenous community efforts, which established Orange Shirt Day in 2013 to honour “Phyllis’ story,” whose new orange shirt was taken on her first day at residential school when she was just six years old.
To mark the day, flags at City Hall and civic centres will be lowered to half-mast and the Toronto sign will be lit orange on September 30. The Survivors Flag will also be flown at half-mast at City Hall. The Survivors Flag is an expression of remembrance, meant to honour residential school survivors and all the lives and communities impacted by the residential school system in Canada.
What can I do?
Reconciliation is the responsibility of every Canadian. It means acknowledging the past and ensuring history never repeats itself by respecting Indigenous treaties and rights, and letting go of negative perceptions and stereotypes to work towards solidarity. Reflect on how you can work towards reconciliation in your own life and create your own personal reconciliation plan.
- Wear orange on September 30 for Orange Shirt Day, established by the Orange Shirt Society in 2013 to honour “Phyllis’s story”
- Buy an orange shirt from an Indigenous artist or company that supports Indigenous causes or directly through the Orange Shirt Society
- Attend community events open to the public, such as:
- Sept. 26 to 30 – Truth and Reconciliation Week public events through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Sept. 29 and 30 – Toronto Council Fire Indigenous Legacy Gathering at Nathan Phillips Square
- Sept. 30 – The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund present a panel discussion at 1 p.m., “Indigenous Perspectives on the Pope’s Apology” (Registration required) and A Day to Listen, broadcast on numerous radio stations across the country, to highlight Indigenous voices and stories
- September 30, 12 to 8 p.m. – For Indigenous community members only: ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency ceremony, feast and Moon Lodge Teachings; for more information, email Cynthia.Bell-Clayton@enagb-iya.ca or call 416-317-9141
- Sept. 30, 12 p.m. – “Wisdom Weavers: Storytelling & Traditional Teachings,” Anishnawbe Health Toronto via Facebook
- Sept. 30, 8 p.m. – Free concert: “Commemorate Truth & Reconciliation: Tomson Highway, Rebecca Cuddy, Sarain Fox, and more”, Royal Conservatory of Music, (Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.)
- Oct. 1 – Native Child and Family Services of Toronto 25th Annual Community Pow Wow (Dufferin Grove Park, 875 Dufferin St.)
- Read books – the Toronto Public Library curated a list of Indigenous must-reads
- Watch films and documentaries that reflect on the residential school experience – the National Film Board of Canada offers a rich collection of Indigenous-made films
- Support local Indigenous artists and businesses
- Support the reclamation of identity, language and culture, learn greetings/phrases in Indigenous languages, or explore Hart House’s Indigenous Language Exhibit
- Watch Toronto History Museums’ Awakenings programming, which includes short films by Indigenous filmmakers Alexandra Lazarowich and Jonathan Elliott
Mental Health Resources and Supports
National Day of Truth and Reconciliation may be difficult, as many continue to reflect, heal and confront traumas. If you require support, the following resources are available: