Canadians called to ‘own your own truth’ on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Canadians are being called to “own your own truth” when it comes to the country’s history and treatment of Indigenous people on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The day was made a federal statutory holiday earlier this year, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended in its 94 calls to action. It will be held annually on Sept. 30.

It honours the children who died while being forced to attend residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the system’s legacy.

WATCH | CBC coverage of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

CBC coverage of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

2 hours ago

A ceremony is being held on Parliament Hill to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 0:00

During a ceremony being held on Parliament Hill, Wakerakatste Louise McDonald Herne, a condoled Bear Clan Mother for the Mohawk Nation Council, called on Canadians to “know the history of this country and the corruption it was built upon.”

“You need to correct the wrongs and you have to own your own truth,” she said.

Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda echoed Herne’s call, saying the discovery of unmarked graves near former residential schools sites has awakened the country to its history.

“Two-hundred and fifteen little voices woke the country, 215 voices spoke to the world,” Commanda said in reference to the 215 unmarked graves that were first discovered near a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C., this spring. That number was later revised down to 200, however hundreds more graves have been found since near other former school sites.

Commanda called on Canadians to open their hearts and listen to the truth in order to move forward with reconciliation.

“Take this beautiful gift we are offering you; learn, listen and we will walk together to this country into a beautiful country for all our children,” she said while fighting back tears.

Queen says she’s joining Canadians in reflection

Queen Elizabeth released a statement Thursday acknowledging “the work that remains to heal and to continue to build an inclusive society.”

“I join with all Canadians on this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to reflect on the painful history that Indigenous peoples endured in residential schools in Canada,” the Queen’s statement said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also released a statement encouraging Canadians to reflect on the impacts and legacy of residential schools, specifically pointing to the hundreds of unmarked graves near former school sites that have been discovered this year.

“The tragic locating of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country has reminded us of not only the impacts of colonialism and the harsh realities of our collective past, but also the work that is paramount to advancing reconciliation in Canada,” the statement said.

‘Uncomfortable truths’

Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon, the first Indigenous person to sit in that role, said today is an opportunity for Canadians to face “uncomfortable truths.”

“As we strive to acknowledge the horrors of the past, the suffering inflicted on Indigenous peoples, let us all stand side-by-side with grace and humility, and work together to build a better future for all,” she said in a statement.

Sept. 30 is also Orange Shirt Day, which remembers the story of Phyllis Webstad, a former residential school student who had her orange shirt taken away on her first day at residential school.

Across the country, people are encouraged to wear orange to spread awareness, support an Indigenous-run business or organization if they can, and take time to learn and reflect. 

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