By Parry-Sound Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison
Thursday, September 30 was the first annual observation of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.
This statutory holiday was established by the Government of Canada in response to the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Establishing this national statutory holiday is one of 94 ‘calls to action’ from the final report.
Many Canadians are learning more and more of the true history of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people since European settlers first started arriving here.
Specifically, we are learning more about a government-sponsored system where Indigenous children were taken from their homes and families while being sent to residential or boarding ‘schools’ to be assimilated into European culture.
We are learning about the often-horrific treatment of children at these institutions and the inter-generational psychological trauma that treatment caused. Most recently, Canadians were horrified to learn of unmarked graves at the former residential school in Kamloops — the first of many and, with what we know, will be many more to come.
These discoveries, while shocking to most Canadians, have been well known to Indigenous communities for generations. The fact that they have become a wake-up call for many Canadians may well prove to be one of the pivotal moments in our shared responsibility towards reconciliation. Pivotal because knowing is the first step.
So many of us had no idea. So many of us were indifferent. So many of us harboured unconscious bias.
An annual Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour the survivors, their families and communities will ensure one more opportunity for Canadians to learn and know what happened. Public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process — and it must include us all.
For me, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was about listening and learning. I was honoured to have been invited to join a Walk of Remembrance at Wahta First Nation. I will continue to listen and learn, visit and connect, engage and grow. I hope you choose to do the same.
These are indeed difficult times and difficult conversations. But I know that we will come together to share the burden, start the healing and travel the road to reconciliation together.
To learn more, visit these links:
The information contained in this article might be triggering to some reading it. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students. You can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
(Photo of Parliament Hill by festivio on Pixabay. Photo of Scott Aitchison courtesy of Scott Aitchison.)
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