Lucas Crandall / Staff reporter
Last Thursday, September 30, the usual Orange Shirt Day, which is usually held every year on this date, had a new statutory holiday incorporated into it named Truth and Reconciliation Day which is held to honour children who attended residential schools against their will.
According to “An Overview of the Indian Residential School System” by the Union of Ontario Indians, many years ago in Canada, First Nation children across the country were taken by the government against their will. They were put into residential schools which were made to strip the culture of the First Nation people and make them practice the new Canadian culture.
Children taken here would be forced to speak English instead of their native language and were often beaten and abused, and many would die from disease or suicide.
These schools stayed open between the 1870s until the 1990s and the aftermath left the First Nation people with much less memory and attachment to their culture.
This statutory holiday is supposed to make people reflect on these children and the residential schools they were taken to.
During this statutory holiday, we could learn about First Nation cultures at many events that were held to commemorate and reflect on the past such as an Inter-generational March at UBC and the Orange Shirt Day Event at Britannia.
According to an article written by Travis Dosser “Hundreds attend local inaugural event for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation”, a huge inaugural event of hundreds was held in Strathcona County, Alberta.
“We learn from each other. We became allies. We helped each other and the Indigenous people here to help each other,” stated Elder Bert Auger as the event opened. “We know there are 52 First Nations in Alberta and eight Metis settlements.”
At this event, many singers would sing music from bands including Redbone and singers like Robbie Robertson. Hockey player Carey Price, considered to be the best in the country, would also make an appearance.
I have interviewed Shawna Smith, a social studies teacher at Gleneagle Secondary School, about various things that happened during this statutory holiday and what we can do to reflect on the it and the past.
“I do not think this should be a regular day where we go to school or work,” said Smith “as we teach this topic in school already the day gives people to the opportunity to participate in more activities that are possibly more authentic… Along the way there were informational signs and activities for younger children. I think it is very hard to have an activity like that in school.”
One of the questions I asked Smith was about how first nation people felt after Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, took a day off on the holiday instead of attending events to reflect on the past. She responded by saying “I think that people were disappointed in him since he is the person who needs to be a model citizen the most of anyone considering he is the prime minister. It’s not ok to disrespect people like this.”
During the week after this statutory holiday, many people are still reflecting on the past and honouring the residential school students. This statutory holiday’s goal is not to have people reflect on honour these people on this day only, but to have people do this every day.