National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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Sun shining between trees

Mayor Diane Therrien has issued the following statement on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

This year the Federal Government announced September 30th to be National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The last several years saw September 30th become “Orange Shirt Day”, so named based on the experience of residential school survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad. Upon her arrival at the Mission School, she was stripped of her orange shirt and made to wear a uniform.

Orange Shirt Day became a national movement, a day to remember and reflect on the horrific treatment of Indigenous children at residential schools across Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Reports consolidated the experiences of survivors and included 94 Calls to Action, covering a range of topics, and includes an entire section on “Missing Children and Burial Information”.

The staggering death rates of Indigenous children at residential schools, and the callous disregard for their bodies has been known in Indigenous communities for generations. Parents were often given no information about why their children didn’t return home.

With the discovery of 215 children’s bodies in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Residential School, the reality of Canada’s horrific past became a national discussion.

Additional bodies have been found since May and will continue to be found as communities conduct ground penetrating radar searches to find their children and bring them home.

It is incumbent upon all of us to contribute to the truth, reconciliation, and healing process. There are numerous resources online to help you understand the true history of this country. As has often been said, we cannot have reconciliation without first having truth. It will be uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable it was for the children taken from their families, their home, their lands, and forced to assimilate to Euro-Christian ways of living.

Imagine it was your children, your grandchildren, your nieces, and nephews. Taken by force (parents who fought to keep their children were arrested or threatened with arrest by the RCMP), to institutions that were designed to strip them of their language, culture, and ties to land and family.

John A Macdonald said “that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men”. Imagine that happening to your family.

Read, at the very least, the Executive Summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the 94 Calls to Action.

Read the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Read the Ipperwash Inquiry.

Read the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Support Indigenous people and communities. Not just on September 30th, but year-round. Attend events organized by Indigenous communities and organizations.

You are on Treaty Land. That comes with rights and responsibilities on both sides. Learn about the Williams Treaty (or the Treaty that covers the area you live). Do as much research as you can. Follow Indigenous scholars, artists, lawyers, activists on social media. Read their posts. Donate to them and Indigenous organizations if you can.

The City of Peterborough has raised the Every Child Matters flag alongside the City flag, which has been at half mast since the discovery of the first 215 children. The City commits to Call to Action #57, “to provide education to our public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations [through] skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”

The City, and I as Mayor, will continue to work with partners at Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, and the urban Indigenous communities to chart a good path forward. We will remember these children, their families, and their communities, and we will honour them.