September 29 2022
We have a long way to go before we can create a truly equitable society. An equitable society will not happen without reconciliation. — Bert Blundon, NUPGE President
Ottawa (29 Sept. 2022) — September 30, 2022, marks the second observance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day honours survivors of Canada’s residential school system, as well as their families, communities, and the children who died as a result of the schools.
September 30 is also observed as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is the legacy of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad and the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events as a way to commemorate the residential school experience and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters.” You can read more about the significance of the day and the colour orange in Phyllis’s own words on the Orange Shirt Day website.
September 30 is a statutory holiday. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) urges all members to attend a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation or Orange Shirt Day event in person or online and to further educate themselves about the legacy of the residential school system and its impact on Indigenous people. Some suggestions of what members can do are find and attend an event in your community or online, read NUPGE’s paper Justice for Indigenous Peoples for background on reconciliation, and see how you can take action through the Canadian Labour Congress’ (CLC) Indigenous Rights and Justice Resource Centre.
As of June 9, 2022, the suspected number of unmarked graves at former residential school sites is 2,301.
Multigenerational impact of residential school system
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada defines reconciliation as “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”
The current inequalities experienced by Indigenous people have direct connections to colonial policies and legislation, many of which are still enshrined in law to this day. Generations of Indigenous children lost connection to their families and their cultures, which impacted both the children and their communities.
The trauma inflicted on Indigenous people through the residential school system and the Sixties Scoop is still being felt because the survivors, their children, and their grandchildren are still alive. Indigenous communities are still coping with the impact of these events. The trauma spans generations. True reconciliation goes beyond recognizing the abuses inflicted by the residential school system and healing survivor trauma. It acknowledges the ongoing nature and impact of colonialism and actively works to remove it from current government policy.
We all have a part to play in reconciliation
“We have a long way to go before we can create a truly equitable society,” said Bert Blundon, NUPGE President. “An equitable society will not happen without reconciliation.”
“We need better education for all Canadians on the linkages between the past and the present,” said Jason MacLean, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer. “The systemic racism and discrimination Indigenous people face today didn’t come out of nowhere.”