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For Sept. 30, communities across Canada are marking the country’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, honouring Indigenous survivors and children who disappeared from the residential school system. Virtual and in-person events will be held, and some public facilities and schools will be closed to mark the day

Several thousand gathered for a Healing Walk throughout downtown Winnipeg and a Powwow on the National Day for Truth And Reconciliation Thursday, September 30, 2021.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press


Thursday Sept. 30, 4:25 p.m. ET

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation unleashed a torrent of international attention to Canada’s deadly residential school system four months ago when it announced 200 or so small bodies had been buried by a river on its territory.

Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir acknowledged that Canadians are finally accepting more truths about this colonial education system’s devastating effects on Indigenous survivors and their families. But, as the country continues this reckoning, restitution and – potentially retribution – are also important milestones in the path toward full reconciliation, Kukpi7 Casimir said at a news conference in the Nation’s large powwow arbour before the day’s ceremonial singing and drumming kicked off.

She announced Ottawa is close to appointing a special interlocutor to help liaise with First Nations across the country on how to improve federal laws and policies to better protect undocumented and unmarked burial sites strewn across Canada’s many former residential school sites.

“I know many of our members have stated ‘Why is there no yellow [crime-scene] tape here? Why is this not taken seriously?’” she told reporters just a short walk from the Kamloops Indian Residential School burials that spurred politicians to fast-track the creation of Thursday’s federal holiday. “Well, we are all taking it seriously and we are grateful that there is that [upcoming] appointment and that’s going to be in collaboration with us as First Nations.”

- Mike Hager


Thursday Sept. 30, 4:15 p.m. ET

Quebec

Quebec Premier François Legault says the province cannot afford to make the national day honouring victims and survivors of residential schools a statutory holiday.

Legault told reporters today the province needs more “productivity,” in response to questions about why Quebec has not officially recognized Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Later in the day, Legault told reporters it would be too expensive to give Quebecers another paid day off work.

He says Quebecers have a duty to remember how residential schools damaged Indigenous communities, but he says there are less costly ways to commemorate the past.

- The Canadian Press


Thursday Sept. 30, 4:00 p.m. ET

Cowessess First Nation

The Saskatchewan First Nation says it has identified about 300 unmarked graves at a former Indian Residential School site.

Earlier this year, Cowessess First Nation used ground-penetrating radar that discovered as many as 751 graves near where the Marieval school stood. The First Nation has worked with the Roman Catholic Church, the RCMP and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to put names to the unmarked graves.

They also have relied on people’s oral stories.

Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme says uncovering 300 names is progress and brings relief.

- The Canadian Press


A child stands by a wall of "Every Child Matters," artwork during the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press


Thursday Sept. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET

Kamloops, B.C.

The chief of British Columbia’s Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation says Indigenous people have had enough apologies and now want action from the Catholic Church and federal government because reconciliation demands honesty, truth and transparency.

On the country’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Chief Rosanne Casimir called for the disclosure of all relevant records from the church and government to help identify missing Indigenous children at former residential school sites, including those in unmarked graves.

Casimir says they want a “meaningful apology” from the Pope for the trauma to Indigenous children and intergenerational suffering.

- The Canadian Press


Thursday Sept. 30, 2:45 p.m. ET

Ottawa

As dozens of people quietly walked by 215 pairs of little shoes that have been on Parliament Hill for weeks, Pitsulala Lita stopped everyone in their tracks when she began to raise her voice.

Ms. Lita, who is known as “LaLa” said in an interview afterward that day of commemoration is of value, but “we cannot forget this on any day.”

Inuit, First Nations, Métis women and girls who are going missing have been put on the “backburner,” she added.

Margaret Mark from Fort Albany First Nation who attended St. Anne’s Residential School said Thursday that the day is “bittersweet” because “our legacies are not told yet” and understood.

“I think the children that were discovered are opening that door, for discoveries for stories to be heard, for Canada to hear what we have to say,” she said.

Read the full story as hundreds gather on Parliament Hill

- Kristy Kirkup

People stand around shoes that honor all the missing Indigenous children on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on September 30, 2021.LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images


Thursday Sept. 30, 2:30 p.m. ET

Ottawa

“I urge you to pause and reflect on Canada’s full history,” said Governor General Mary May Simon, the first aboriginal person to serve as the representative in Canada of its head of state, Queen Elizabeth.

“Do it to honor those indigenous children who experienced or witnessed cruel injustices. Many emerged traumatized, many still suffer pain,” she added in a statement.

The queen sent a message, saying she joined with Canadians “to reflect on the painful history that Indigenous peoples endured in residential schools in Canada, and on the work that remains to heal and to continue to build an inclusive society.”


Thursday Sept. 30, 12:45 p.m. ET

Thunder Bay, Ont.

An Anishinaabe water protector and daughter of a residential school survivor shared sacred cultural teachings at a cedar tree planting ceremony hosted by the city of Thunder Bay on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Sheila DeCorte from Fort William First Nation sits on the city’s Anishinaabe Elders Advisory Council and said the day is an important time for Indigenous people to speak up and share their truths.

“Today is the day that we speak debwewin, the truth, the true history of our people,” Ms. DeCorte said after she sang a water song for the survivors, families and community members who gathered.

Tree planting ceremony in Vickers Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario on Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.Brandy Kenna/The Globe and Mail

“Even though that was all shared in the Truth and Reconciliation [Commission report] by the survivors, but it wasn’t believed. How do you deny that now? You can’t deny that debwewin (truth) now.”

Ms. DeCorte said she feels the effects of residential schools: Her mother is a survivor who lost the language and cultural teachings that Ms. DeCorte has been reconnecting with in recent years.

“I just recently learned that my mother actually spoke the language. But she never shared that with us as children because for whatever reason – being ashamed and the names that she was called and stuff and so she never shared that with us,” Ms. DeCorte said.

She said while it’s going to take time for survivors and their families to heal, she was encouraged by the number of people wearing orange shirts to commemorate the day that coincides with Orange Shirt Day – an event Indigenous peoples have been commemorating since 2013. The orange shirt symbolizes the traumatic experience of survivor Phyllis Westad, who was stripped of all her clothes, including a brand new orange shirt gifted by her grandmother, when she arrived at residential school at just six years old.

She said people can also read the Truth and Reconciliation’s 94 Calls to Action and “take at least one of those calls to action and do something with it.”

- Willow Fiddler

Sheila Decorte, Elder of the Fort William First Nation, watering the Cedar tree for the ceremony in Vickers Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.Brandy Kenna/The Globe and Mail


More reading

Explainer: How to show unity with Indigenous communities

Tanya Talaga: All Canadians should take Sept. 30 to observe National Truth and Reconciliation Day

Editorial: A day of remembrance is good. Fixing the legacy of residential schools is better


Thursday Sept. 30, 12:00 p.m. ET

Atlantic Canada

Indigenous groups across Atlantic Canada marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with events around the region, including prayers, a flag-raising and drum performances on the Halifax waterfront, a march in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the unveiling of a bust of celebrated Mi’kmaw educator Elsie Basque at Nova Scotia’s Université Sainte-Anne.

Mi’kmaq leaders in New Brunswick, where schools remained open but several municipalities closed for the day, also called on the province to organize an in-depth investigation into the sites of New Brunswick’s day schools. The province had some of the earliest schools established in Canada to separate Indigenous children from their families, language, and culture.

“It is imperative to recognize the injustices of the past. As a people, we need healing and forward thinking. Uncovering hidden history is a first step that cannot be taken lightly. The First Nations peoples of New Brunswick deserve the truth,” said Alvery Paul, Chief of the Esgenoopetitj First Nation, in a statement.

In Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick, a funeral mass was held for elder Sarah Simon on Wednesday. Ms. Simon, a former band councilor and mother of 19, was believed to be the oldest survivor of the Shubenacadie residential school. She died last weekend in hospital at the age of 96.

On Prince Edward Island, speakers from the Native Council of P.E.I. addressed a committee of provincial MLAs as part of a briefing on Indigenous reconciliation.

“We continue to be invisible by this province, like we don’t exist. We are faceless people that are struggling with our children being taken away, and our families struggling with mental health and addictions,” Lisa Cooper, chief and president of the council, told the MLAs.

- Greg Mercer


  • Dancers perform at a powwow during a Reconciliation Day event in Cowessess First Nation.Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

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Thursday Sept. 30, 12:00 p.m. ET

Toronto, Ontario

Reconciliation 215 poem

I sit here crying

I don’t know why

I didn’t know the children

I didn’t know the parents

But I knew their spirit

I knew their love I know their loss

I know their potential

And I am overwhelmed

By the pain and the hurt

The pain of the families and friends

The pain of an entire people

Unable to protect them, to help them

To comfort them, to love them

I did not know them

But the pain is so real, so personal

I feel it in my core, my heart, my spirit

I sit here crying and I am not ashamed

I will cry for them, and the many others like them

I will cry for you, I will cry for me

I’ll cry for the what could have been

Then I will calm myself, smudge myself, offer prayers

And know they are no longer in pain

No longer do they hurt, they are at peace

In time I will tell their story, I will educate society

So their memory is not lost to this world

And when I am asked

what does reconciliation mean to me I will say

I want their lives back

I want them to live, to soar

I want to hear their laughter

See their smiles Give me that

And I’ll grant you reconciliation

By R. Stacey Laforme


Thursday Sept. 30, 12:00 p.m. ET

Toronto, Ontario

At a ceremony at Massey College in Toronto, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation R. Stacey Laforme was joined by Ontario lieutenant-governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Premier Doug Ford and James Bird, a Massey College junior fellow and residential school survivor.

Chief Laforme read two poems in his address, including one titled “Reconciliation 215,” a reference to the finding in May at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

“The pain and hurt and the grief of these losses have been strong, and I am so hopeful because people understand that this is not just the loss, only the loss of Indigenous children. This is the loss of our children, of this country, and we have to make it right somehow. And we will,” Chief Laforme said.

He was joined by Mr. Ford who said said Canada must not forget the countless Indigenous children who did not return home from residential schools.

“For generations, Indigenous people have endured the harsh realities and impacts of residential schools. Ontarians need to face this dark chapter of our history and commit to taking action.”

- Laura Stone



Thursday Sept. 30, 10:00 a.m. ET

Ottawa

A ceremony is being held in front of parliament on Thursday, and similar events are being held around the country.

“On this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we reflect on the lasting impacts of residential schools,” Trudeau said on Thursday, a day after marking the holiday at an event held on the lawn in front of parliament. “We remember the children who never made it home.”

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a somber event on Parliament Hill, which was held to mark the eve of the national day. During an address, he spoke of the need to understand mistakes of the past and look at how those mistakes shape the country today.

- The Canadian Press

Sean Kilpatrick


Thursday Sept. 30, 7:00 a.m. ET
Cowessess First Nation

In June, Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme announced that 751 unmarked graves had been discovered in the Roman Catholic cemetery at the Marieval Indian Residential School site. Today, Cowessess is holding a memorial ceremony on Thursday at the site to honour the Indigenous children who died at the residential school and those who survived.

- Ntawnis Piapot

A sign near one of the entrances to the site where a preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School on Cowessess First Nation, SK, September 28, 2021.Liam Richards/Photo Liam Richards


Thursday Sept. 30, 6:00 a.m. ET
A growing awareness of the mistreatment of Indigenous people

A new survey suggests that there is a growing awareness in Canada of the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, and more willingness among Canadians to blame governments for the fact that First Nations continue to suffer inequality. The survey results were released on Thursday, to coincide with Canada’s first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

- Kristy Kirkup


Wednesday Sept. 29, 11:30 p.m. ET

Gull Island, Labrador

A ceremony was held at an annual Innu clan gathering on the eve of Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honouring the lost children and survivors of Indigenous residential schools, their families and communities, at Gull Island, Labrador.

- The Canadian Press

Chloe Benuen of the Innu First Nation poses in traditional clothing after the ceremony, September 29, 2021.GREG LOCKE/Reuters

Elders leave a meeting at an annual Innu clan gathering, September 29, 2021.GREG LOCKE/Reuters


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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation may conjure up difficult emotions as part of the reflection process. You are encouraged to reach out:

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With reports from the Canadian Press

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