Today, September 30th, marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Today we reflect on the devastating effects of on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Turtle Island, with particular attention to how this was carried out through the residential school system. We recognize that the violence of colonialism and residential schools is still felt throughout indigenous communities today.
Today we remember the 6,128 children whose remains have been found on the grounds of former residential schools, the 3,213 who were documented in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the many more who have not yet been found. We think of all those whose culture, language, identity, and connection to the land were stolen through the violent separation of Indigenous families by the residential school system and other instances of forced relocation and land theft.
As settlers and newcomers, we contend with this history and the ways we as non-Indigenous people have benefitted from the colonial project of Canada. Like the horrors of residential school, this is an important part of the truth that we must address – and be willing to remedy – in order to continue towards reconciliation.
Today is a day not only of reflection, but of action. We must engage with the hard truths of this dark reality, understand how it shapes the lives of First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and settler peoples today, and resolve to act in ways that build a just future through the processes of reconciliation. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reminds us, we “must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practice reconciliation in our everyday lives”.
This begins with listening and learning. Reading books and articles by Indigenous writers to understand the various experiences of Indigenous Peoples with the residential school system is a crucial first step. We must then move on to action. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has created a report with 94 Calls to Action in order to set us on a path to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Reading and advocating for these calls to be enacted is a powerful step in working towards reconciliation.
As we take this day to reflect and remember, let us pray for the humility to hear and heed the voices of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, families, and elders. Let us pray for our hearts to break and be bound together. Let us pray for the wisdom and courage to work together towards authentic reconciliation.
- Prayer and reflection from Conor Sarazin, shared from KAIROS
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – Residential School History
- Orange Shirt Society – Canadian Residential School History
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – Doing the Work: What Settlers Need to Know
- An Overview of the Indian Residential School System
CPJ recognizes that this day may be very heavy for people who are First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, especially residential school survivors.
If you are in distress and need help you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.