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Sept. 30, 2021, is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Virtual and in-person events will be held across Canada, and some public facilities and schools will be closed to mark the day.

What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

The day is a direct response to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration to acknowledge those affected by residential schools and educate Canadians.

The House of Commons unanimously supported legislation in June to make Sept. 30 a federally recognized holiday to mark the history of and intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system.

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

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad, founder of Orange Shirt Day, speaks as Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir listens after the B.C. Lions CFL football team announced that it would recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, held on Sept. 30, at their Sept. 24 game against Saskatchewan in Vancouver. Orange T-shirts with an Indigenous B.C. Lions logo by Kwakwaka'wakw-Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt will be handed out to 10,000 people at the game and tickets will be provided to 350 residential school survivors to attend.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

It also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a movement that began on Sept. 30, 2013, when residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation opened up about her trauma caused by residential schools.

Forty years prior, Webstad arrived for her first day of residential school wearing a new orange shirt, but would soon have it taken from her. Orange Shirt Day functions to raise awareness about Indigenous children who had their culture and freedoms ripped away from them.

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What is the significance of acknowledging residential schools’ history and trauma this year?

Indigenous people have long suspected that former residential schools had unmarked graveyards that hid their horrific human cost. Hundreds of such graves were reported this summer as First Nations used ground-penetrating radar, archival detective work and the help of experts to find the remains of long-lost loved ones.

The burials touched off an outpouring of support from Canadians.

A woman holds back her emotions as she listens to speakers during National Day of Truth and Reconciliation ceremonies on Parliament Hill, Thursday, September 30, 2021 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is essential for all Canadians to honour

Is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a national holiday in Canada?

The statutory holiday applies to all federal employees and workers in federally regulated workplaces. All federally regulated industries and workplaces will be closed, including banks, post offices and public services.

Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will be recognizing the holiday, closing schools and government offices. Certain municipalities around the country are honouring the day.

Ontario officials say the province is also working to ensure the day is recognized, but stopped short of making it a statutory holiday. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and British Columbia also said they will not be making the day a statutory holiday. Meanwhile, provincial governments are facing calls to change their stance.

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Major events in Canada on Sept. 30 marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

What are Indigenous groups and leaders calling on Canadians to do?

As non-Indigenous people in Canada navigate the best way to commemorate and honour survivors and their families, educators and those who were forced to attend the schools are offering advice on what can be done to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Show your support by taking a moment of silence at 2:15 p.m. (referring to the number of graves found in Kamloops). Wear an orange shirt and display an orange light inside or outside your window in an effort to show solidarity.

Learn the history of Indigenous People in Canada

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Recognize your role in the progress that still needs to be made
Support authentic Indigenous businesses, artists, experiences and events
  • Use Shop First Nations to find Indigenous goods and services to bolster First Nations, Inuit and Métis businesses
  • Visit Destination Indigenous if you are looking for an immersive experience of traditional Indigenous culture through storytelling and culinary experiences on Indigenous territories
  • Click buyauthentic.ca for a hub that helps consumers find and purchase Indigenous merchandise showcasing craftsmanship that has been passed along for generations
Learn how to properly acknowledge the land we live on
  • Visit native-land.ca to see whose traditional land you live on, and learn the names and geographical areas of other territories

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If you require support

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

More Reporting

With files from Kristy Kirkup, Joe Friesen, Globe Staff, and The Canadian Press

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