September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to remember and honour the children lost to Canada’s residential school system, survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities. It also commemorates Orange Shirt Day, a grassroots movement started in 2013 to recognize the damage and violent legacy of residential schools.
Both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day are a time for reflection and learning. While the horrific legacy of residential schools stretches back centuries, the dozens of unmarked burials at residential school sites that came to light in 2021 sparked a long-overdue national reckoning.
The impacts of residential schools and the need for reconciliation are not historical events – in Ontario, the last of the province’s 18 residential schools only closed in 1991. The trauma inflicted by the residential school system is ongoing and continues to impact Indigenous peoples and communities every day.
On this day of reflection, we ask GSCers to consider how you can advance reconciliation efforts in meaningful ways and further your education on the history of Indigenous peoples and colonization in Canada. Education and knowledge are imperative as we work to move forward, together, on our shared journey toward reconciliation. Helpful and informative links can be found below.
GSC is recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by contributing $2,500 each to the Orange Shirt Day Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.
GSC also supports Indigenous organizations year round, investing in Indigenous-led social impact initiatives with organizations like Indspire (Indigenous education), the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund (COVID relief), Anishnawbe Health Foundation (via Toronto Foundation – mental health), the Mawita’mk Society (via Community Foundation of Nova Scotia – mental health) and the De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (via Hamilton Community Foundation – mental health).
Formal learning opportunities
- The University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada course is a free, 12-week program that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. You can complete it online at your own pace.
- The University of Toronto’s “Aboriginal Worldviews and Education” course explores Indigenous ways of knowing and highlights how they can benefit all students. Topics include historical, social, and political issues in Indigenous education; terminology; cultural, spiritual and philosophical themes in Indigenous worldviews; and how Indigenous worldviews can inform professional programs and practices. The course is free and takes 14 hours to complete.
Informal learning opportunities and culture
- UBC’s Indigenous Peoples Language Guidelines
- Indigenous Corporate Training: 7 First Nation Facts You Should Know
- Indigenous Corporate Training: 10 Things You Can Do: Kamloops Indian Residential School
- Amnesty International: 10 Ways to Be a Genuine Ally to Indigenous Communities
- Historica Canada podcast on Residential Schools
- The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion: The future-forward - Fireside chat with Kelly Lendsay, President & CEO of Indigenous Works (Webinar on June 21, 2:30 p.m. ET)
- The CBC’s 35 books to read for National Indigenous History Month
- The CBC’s 10 books about residential schools to read with your kids
- Assembly of First Nations’ Education Toolkit
Advocating for truth and reconciliation
The scope of the tragedy of Canada's residential school system is so large, and it can be hard to know how we as individuals can make a meaningful difference, especially after decades of inaction. Here are some ways we can personally advocate for reconciliation:
- Learn about the traditional territories, languages and treaties in your area at native-land.ca and whose.land, and understand how to acknowledge the history of the land on which you live with a territory acknowledgement. Acknowledgement, a video from the Toronto History Museums, sheds light on how Indigenous people’s lives and histories have shaped Toronto’s origins and asks the question: in this era of reconciliation, how do we acknowledge our collective history?
- Write to your MP to ask that the Government of Canada provide adequate attention and resources to address all 94 TRC Calls to Action.
- The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) provides a global perspective on Indigenous rights and culture. Canada originally voted against the adoption of UNDRIP in 2007, though legislation was proposed in 2020 to implement UNDRIP in Canada, under the umbrella of Bill C-15.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis line provides 24/7 mental health crisis counselling for Indigenous peoples: 1-800-721-0066. The Indian Residential School National Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.