Canada marks 2nd annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Ceremonies, marches and other gatherings are scheduled across Canada for the second annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

By The Canadian Press and Michael Ranger

Ceremonies, marches and other gatherings are scheduled across Canada for the second annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The federal statutory holiday was established last year following the discovery of suspected unmarked burial sites at former residential schools.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald says the day is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the impact of the schools on Indigenous Peoples and the roles the institutions played in Canada’s history.


Marc Miller, federal Crown-Indigenous relations minister, says the government is committed to ensuring reconciliation remains entrenched in Canada’s daily and long-term goals.

Some of the events scheduled today include the illumination of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in orange, programming about residential schools at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and a community powwow at the Victoria-area Songhees Nation.

Linc Kesler, a residential school and Indigenous identity expert at the University of British Columbia, says the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation helps bring Indigenous issues to the forefront for Canadians.

“As to what Canadians will make of all of that, I don’t know,” he said. “I know what I hope they would make of it and it would be they would become more aware of how much they haven’t known in the past.”

Holiday not recognized provincially in Ontario

The federal stat holiday is not recognized provincially but there are still ways to mark the day locally.

Schools were open on Friday and the Toronto District School Board encouraged students to wear orange shirts.

The TTC ran as normal, but workers paid tribute by wearing orange armbands and flags at stations were lowered to half-mast.

LCBO stores were closed for the morning, reopening at noon.

There will be no mail collection and federally regulated offices like banks will be closed tomorrow.

At Nathan Phillips Square, the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre continued a two-day commemoration with a sunrise ceremony followed by Indigenous musical performances and speakers who addressed the crowd.

Jessica Keeshig-Martin, an Indigenous woman who came to the square, said her grandmothers attended residential schools, and she was there to pray for her community.

“It is important for me to be here for my own healing and to pray for the healing of our communities, and for those young souls who were lost and who are within those unmarked graves that have been found,” she said.

Keeshig-Martin urged others to learn more about what happened to Indigenous people as a result of the residential school system.

“It is really important to learn the truth about what happened so we can start talking about how to move forward in the future in a good way,” she said.

Nancy Logan, a Calgary resident who was in Toronto on vacation, said she came to the downtown event to learn more about Indigenous communities.

“We need to grow together, there is no one (person) who can change it, we all need to come together and learn, and grow together to help each other,” she said.

Growing up, Logan said she knew very little about the horrors of the residential school system and was glad to see more people were now aware of the “absolute tragedy.”

“It is absolutely heartbreaking,” she said. “Today is great to have but you have to think about all year.”

Premier Doug Ford attended the unveiling of a garden at Queen’s Park that the province says is meant to recognize the continuing treaty relationship between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples.

Ford says the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a time for Ontarians to reflect on the dark legacy of residential schools and the effect they’ve had on generations of Indigenous people.

“I encourage everyone to learn about and reflect on the history of residential schools, the harmful impact they’ve had on Indigenous families and entire communities and to commemorate all those who’ve been affected,” he said. “It’s a long road ahead but we will walk together in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.”

Elder Carolyn King, the former chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, helped create the garden.

“The first step is to recognize that we were there and we’re still here, and then the relationship building starts and what that might be is wonderful permanent things like this, a garden here that recognizes that relationship that maybe should have been there for a much longer time,” she said.

Chief Stacey LaForme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation said he spent Thursday with thousands of students who wanted to learn about reconciliation and the meaning of Orange Shirt Day.

“I have never seen this many people want to do this before, so I’m pleased by that,” he said.

“It’s very fitting that we’re unveiling the treaty plaque today because treaties are definitely a part of reconciliation and so we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but maybe for the first time I think we’re up to it.”

Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell says the garden rises from, and symbolizes, friendship.

Plaque unveiled at a garden at Queen's Park

Plaque unveiled at a garden at Queen’s Park to recognize the continuing treaty relationship between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples. CITYNEWS/David Piedra

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