statement on Canada’s first National Day for Truth And Reconciliation

September 30, 2021

What are you doing for Canada’s first National Day for Truth And Reconciliation?

Content warning: this piece contains mention of genocide, settler-colonial racism and the traumatic legacy of residential schools

Today has been a long time coming. 

The first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a moment for people in Canada to reflect on the full extent and gravity of the long-lasting, intergenerational harm of colonization. It is a moment to reckon with the ongoing harm of the residential school system, to spend time listening to Indigenous survivors and their families, and to uplift their voices. 

Today is a day to try and grasp how some losses can never be made whole, how some injustices can never be made right. To mark how, around this time of year, children – some as young as three – would have been taken from their homes, sometimes never to be seen again. And how many of the inequities at the root of this brutal colonial system persist. 

It is a moment to reconsider how the privileges that many settlers in Canada experience now are a result of violence. Not just in the history books, but in our lifetimes: the last residential school closed in 1996. And Indigenous peoples are still being forced off their land to make way for resource extraction. They are still disproportionately harmed by environmental pollution, lack access to healthcare and clean drinking water, are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and the child welfare system, and more. As we spend today reflecting on this reality, we must commit ourselves to challenging these oppressive, colonial frameworks in pursuit of justice.

The impact of colonization is not limited to Canada. Today must also be a moment for anyone in the US – where Indigenous communities have been subjected to many of the same injustices – or indeed anywhere in the world, to consider the history of their country and the ongoing violence committed against Indigenous peoples and Nations. Consider why the dominant narratives perpetuated in countries like the US have erased Indigenous histories and the atrocities committed in the name of colonization and exploitation. It is our collective responsibility to hold our governments and countries accountable for committing genocides, and to do so, we must know the truth. 

Today, we wear orange in honour of Phyllis Webstad, who had her orange shirt taken away on her first day of residential school. She was six. 

Today we honour not just the memory of those who suffered, but survivors like Phyllis who not only refused to be quiet but battled mightily to unearth the truth. Today we honour the children of these survivors working to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Today we acknowledge the resilience of so many Indigenous people who have not only survived, but thrive. Who despite so many harms and acts of violence (many of which meet the definition of genocide), continue to act as stewards of these beautiful lands, as they have since time immemorial. Today, and every day, we invite you to listen to their voices, stories, histories, and wisdom. 

Today has been a long time coming, and meaningful change will take much more than just one moment: it will take constant work across multiple lifetimes. Indigenous people have been leading in this work, and carrying these tremendous burdens, for longer than the concept of Canada has existed. The reality is that this day has been brought about by immeasurable work from countless people — whether their work has taken the form of supporting families, defending communities and land, or building the series of recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came out years ago. The culmination of that work will not be in any one day, but in justice for Indigenous families still caught in the repercussions of residential schools, and for all Indigenous peoples still living through the legacy of colonization. On this day next year, will you be able to look back and reflect on what you did to share in this work?

We invite you to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by finding an in-person or virtual event, donating to an Indigenous organization, or reading (and re-reading) the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

Find an event:

Resources for learning:

Ways to donate: 

Further reading: