Some ways non-Indigenous people can mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Ontario

For the first time, Canada is observing a new statutory holiday to commemorate the tragic legacy of residential schools in Canada.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation responds to the 80th call to action asking the government to create 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."

Before it became a statutory holiday, Sept. 30 was considered “Orange Shirt Day.” The event began in 2013 and was inspired by Phyllis Webstad, an Indigenous woman whose new orange shirt, gifted to her by her grandmother, was forcefully taken from her as a child at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in 1973.

The residential school system operated in Canada between 1831 and 1996. It aimed to eliminate Indigenous languages and cultures and separated more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children from their families. This past summer, unmarked gravesites containing the remains of hundreds of people, believed to be mainly Indigenous children, were found at several former residential school sites across Canada. The search is ongoing to locate more of the mass gravesites.

Ceremonies and events will be taking place across Canada on Thursday to commemorate the tragic legacy of residential schools. The City of Toronto has announced it will fly Canadian flags at half-mast on official poles across the city. Toronto will also light its iconic sign orange in honour of the day. Advocates have said the day should hold a sombre tone.

CTV News Toronto has compiled a list of events and ways non-Indigenous people can respectfully commemorate the day in Ontario.

READ

  • Reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action report would be a good way to start. In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of reconciliation in Canada, the commission made 94 calls to action in 2015.
  • There’s even a version of the calls to action report for children that teachers and parents could use as an education resource. 
  • The Toronto Public Library has put together a reading list for teens, adults and children of Indigenous authors in collaboration with their Indigenous Advisory Council. You can follow the hashtag #ReadIndigenousTO on Twitter to keep up. 

TAKE PART IN CEREMONIES

  • APTN will host its first ever Sunrise Ceremony, which will take audiences to various Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, where each community will gather to honour this important day with their traditions and culture. The event will take place on Sept. 30 at 6 a.m. Later in the evening, APTN and CBC will air a special program produced by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. It will give Canadian viewers the opportunity to honour residential school survivors in ceremony and learn about the history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. 
  • On Thursday, a national gathering will take place in Ottawa and online through a livestream to “remember Indigenous children & families affected by the Indian Residential Schools and all Indigenous child apprehension programs.” The gathering will begin with an opening ceremony at Parliament Hill from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. A spirit walk will follow the ceremony to Confederation Park where there will be presentations and performances.
  • A number of universities across Ontario are holding events and ceremonies, including Algoma University, Ryerson University, Western University, University of Toronto, McMaster University, Carleton University and the University of Guelph.

TAKE PART IN EDUCATIONAL EVENTS

  • The Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ont., is holding virtual programs for the public on Sept. 30. It aims to raise awareness of the tragic history of the residential school system through presentations, question and answer periods and tours of a former residential school.
  • The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has online events prepared for the general public on Thursday covering various topics, including treaties, land claims and unceded territories, language and culture, and reconciliation.
  • The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund will be hosting a discussion on Thursday about the new holiday, the significance of it, what it means for reconciliation in Canada, and how people can participate meaningfully. 

LEARN ABOUT INDIGENOUS HISTORY THROUGH ART

  • An outdoor concert called the Unity Jam is to take place at Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto on Thursday. The show will feature performances by Indigenous singer-songwriters Derek Miller and Logan Staats, and Layla Black, a fourth generation residential school survivor and multidisciplinary artist specializing in digital media. 
  • StreetARToronto is holding an Instagram livestream program Thursday morning with Elder Whabagoon of Lac Seul First Nation, Artist Que Rock of Nippissing First Nation and the City of Toronto’s Barbara Gray. 
  • The Toronto Zoo is hosting programming throughout the day at the main entrance and at its First Nations Art Garden.