Manitobans mark first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Manitobans put on their orange shirts and joined a healing walk on Thursday to honour those affected by residential schools, day schools, and the Sixties Scoop.

Ann Rundle was part of the pack. She told CTV News both her parents are residential school survivors.

“I’m walking for both of my parents, all of the survivors, all the children that didn’t make it home, and all the children we’re still waiting for to come home.”

September 30 was Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It was designated a federal statutory holiday in June on the heels of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the property of a former residential school in Kamloops B.C.

Since then, hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools in Canada.

“We’re just here to support and care,” Rundle said. “Spread love, and heal, and all of that good stuff cause that’s what we really need right now.”

The group began their walk at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and walked down Main Street to St. John's Park for an all-day powwow.

Katherine Legrange, one of the walk’s organizers, said September 30 was originally Orange Shirt Day and, with the addition of the federal holiday, they wanted to commemorate those impacted by residential schools.

“It’s an awareness of Indian Residential Schools,” Legrange said. “We’re still feeling the effects of our parents and grandparents who were forced to attend these facilities, and so we really want to continue that awareness, and commemorate the survivors that are still with us.”

Nearly all of the people attending the healing walk and the Pow Wow were wearing orange shirts to show support and solidarity.

Michelle Cameron, owner of Indigenous Nations Apparel Company in Polo Park, sells orange shirts in her store, and donates the proceeds to the Orange Shirt Society and the R.C. Survivors Program.

Cameron’s encouraging Manitobans to buy their orange shirt locally, as opposed to buying from a big box store.

“Do your research. You don’t have to order from us, but order from an Indigenous community, or an Indigenous organization, or an Indigenous business,” said Cameron. “That way, it’s staying close to home and it’s staying in the Indigenous community, which is where it all started.”

Rundle believes the discovery of the unmarked graves was the catalyst for the changes happening now.

“It’s just really I think (brought) it to the forefront of everybody’s attention and I think it needs to stay there until every child is home.”