On September 30, 2022, Canadian’s recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday which was established to honour those who were impacted by Canada’s residential school system. The purpose of this day is to ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
As National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is all about honouring the truth, it is important to recognize the abhorrent residential school system that operated within Canada from 1831 – 1998. Throughout this time, 140 federally run residential schools were created for the sole purpose of indoctrinating indigenous children into a Euro-Christian way of life. This cultural genocide was put in place because the Canadian government wished to deny itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources.
Under the leadership of Sir John. A. McDonald, Indigenous children were ripped away from their families to eliminate all ties to their culture. Upon arrival at the school, children were separated from their siblings and forced to strip out of their own clothing.
They were then made to wear westernized uniforms that were poor in quality and not at all suited to Canada’s weather conditions.
After joining the schools, extreme neglect and abuse became a part of everyday life for these children. They were prohibited from speaking their own languages, and they were physically punished, isolated and humiliated if they misunderstood staff directions. A lack of Supervision created situations where students became prey to abuse, and laborious chores took precedence over learning. Poorly built and maintained buildings contributed to the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, and many innocent children died because of this blatant disregard for human life.
By establishing the long overdue National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021, our government took the first step in recognizing that this is an issue that all Canadians need to recognize and address. Reconciliation is the responsibility of every Canadian, and it is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. For us to support this mutually respectful relationship, we must be aware of our past, acknowledge the harm that has been inflicted, and make positive actions to change the future.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is also known as Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led day of commemoration which honours the children who survived residential schools and remembers those who did not. The orange shirt symbolizes the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. The symbol directly relates to the story of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation who was forced to remove her orange shirt on her first day at a residential school.
Many of our ASP employees took part in Orange Shirt Day as part of this commemoration. Below are the photos that you submitted to show your support. Thank you to all those who participated!