Assigning Sept. 30 as a day to commemorate the victims and survivors of the residential schools is the least the federal and provincial governments can do. But it is a step in the direction towards healing.
B.C.’s government announced this month that Sept. 30 would be kept in memory of those Indigenous children forced into the schools on the same day that marks Orange Shirt Day each year. The province’s move is in line with the federal government’s announcement earlier this summer that Sept. 30 would become an annual statutory day to consider the past and enduring damage that residential schools have caused.
Elevating Orange Shirt Day on the calendar is something we believe Canadians want. In the lead-up to Canada Day, many of us decided that July 1, rather than a day to express national pride, needed to be a day for national reflection and the pursuit of truth and reconciliation.
Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, started Orange Shirt Day. She attended a residential school as a child where, on her first day, the residential school took away her brand new orange shirt. The symbol now reminds us that ‘Every Child Matters.’ And that has been something important to keep in mind as we continue to receive grim counts of unmarked and undocumented graves – the numbers are horrifying and brutal to hear, even more so when we keep in mind the tragic story that each number represents.
A new, statutory National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will hopefully serve as a reminder that while we can’t change the past, we can strive to create a better future.
Canadians, in more significant numbers than before, know more of the truth. Designating a special day of commemoration each year will be an occasion to mark progress as we carry on the work that needs to be done toward reconciliation.