Truth and Reconciliation Day a time to reflect on Canada’s dark history

Today is National Day for Truth and Recognition Day in Canada.
Official legislation passed in June of this year by Ottawa has set aside Sept. 30 to be a day where Canadians reflect on one of the darkest times of the country’s history, when the government forced Indigenous youths into residential schools. Today is a great time to pay respect to the thousands of children that were separated from their parents and their culture, a great many of which never returned home. Though Sept. 30 has been recognized as Orange Shirt day in the past, this year marks the first time it has become an official federal statutory holiday.

Unfortunately there’s already been some controversy surrounding the day-namely who does or doesn’t get the day off as a holiday. While confusion over whether employers are obligated to give their employees a particular day off isn’t new-February’s Family Day is one recent example-it’s a shame that talk about Truth and Reconciliation Day has been overshadowed by unions and employers engaging in publicity wars about whether or not their staff have to come into work.

Ideally the man focus of the day won’t get lost-the children. For those of us extremely fortunate enough to have not been subjected to the horrors of residential schools, today is a time to try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Ignorance may have been an excuse for decades but that’s no longer the case. Mainstream schools have long glossed over this chapter in Canada’s history but the truth has come to light, starting with the ‘discovery’ of 215 bodies of Indigenous children on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. earlier this year. The word discovered is used generously here, as these injustices have been known to many for decades. Members of the Indigenous community tried for years to tell the rest of the country while several different governments were well aware of what took place at these horrible schools. For decades those with any power to do anything remained silent, all too content to reap the benefits of the suffering endured by countless families. Those responsible for founding residential schools may be long dead, but the fact they were allowed to continue into the 1990s will forever be a black mark on Canada’s record.

As more former schools are searched, more disturbing reports come to light. Since the first story broke back in May, the number of unmarked graves found is up over 1,000. Troubling as that number is, it’s likely not even close to actual number of victims. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Report, an estimated 3,200 unmarked graves can be found across the country we’ve been so proudly calling the ‘true north strong and free’. Those words mean very different things to many people in this country.

Truth and Reconciliation Day is one of several suggestions to come out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Here’s hoping it continues to push the conversation-as difficult as it may be-and ensures that we never forget that part of our history.

Adam Prudhomme

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