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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation regional event in works for Victoria

Royal Athletic Park freed up as a venue for the South Island gathering
An Indigenous dancer performs at Victoria’s Orange Shirt Day ceremony on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

After the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021 saw ceremonies around Greater Victoria honour survivors and the children who didn’t come home from Canada’s residential schools, a regional gathering could mark the 2022 reflection.

Mayors of the region’s 13 municipalities recently wrote to local First Nations on how to best observe the Sept. 30 date. The 13 communities said they’d be honoured to be included and assist in a larger regional event, with a goal of ensuring any municipal ceremonies on the day didn’t conflict with those being held by the Nations.

The mayors also stated they would be respectful if the Nations chose to observe the day with their own communities.

“This will be the second official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and we know that there is a lot of work to do and there is a dark history in our country. We want to observe this day, in a respectful, meaningful and sensitive way,” the group letter stated.

After receiving guidance from local First Nations, the City of Victoria has cleared the way for a regional gathering at Royal Athletic Park.

In response to the mayors, Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam said his council sees the day as an opportunity to build or reset relationships with local municipalities, to advance shared priorities and to chart a path towards implementing all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.

“Songhees Nation will be observing the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in a meaningful way that will honour the former Indian Residential School students, intergenerational survivors and the memory of those children who died while being forced to attend these institutions,” Sam wrote.

The Songhees proposed a Sept. 30 cultural celebration and pow wow on the South Island, with support from the 13 municipalities, given such an event’s likelihood to draw interest from First Nations and Indigenous Peoples, the general public and all levels of government. The Nation suggested an athletic field or the University of Victoria since those venues would be large enough to hold a safe and respectful event.

Victoria council on July 14 approved the use of Royal Athletic Park and up to $50,000 from its corporate contingency fund for the gathering. Mayor Lisa Helps will also work with the other mayors to contribute funding for the event.

READ: UVic to offer groundbreaking MBA program in Indigenous Reconciliation

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About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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