Sep 30, 2021
By Jane Brown
Today, September 30th, is Canada’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
It’s a national holiday for Canadians of all backgrounds to recognize and reflect on the horrors of Canada’s former residential school system and honour the lost children and survivors.
The holiday grants a paid day off to federally regulated employees and public servants, and some provincial governments have done the same for their workers, although not here in Ontario.
The law to mark September 30th as a holiday was given royal assent just weeks after 215 unmarked graves were discovered in May by a First Nation on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
Hundreds more potential grave sites were found at other residential schools in the months that followed.
Wednesday night on Parliament Hill, a ceremony was held an offered an opportunity for indigenous people to share their stories, including Jimmy Desrosiers, a residential school survivor from Saskatchewan.
“What are we going to do about those children?” Desrosiers asked those gathered, “that were discovered in those mass graves all over the country. Why did that happen?”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke at the Ottawa ceremony and urged Canadians to remember the ugly side of Canada’s history.
“Every people are good at telling stories of how great we are, how we were heroic in this moment, how there were brave leaders in other moments,” Trudeau explained, “It’s harder to reflect on the truth, of the mistakes, of the evil that we did in the past.”
Ironically, Trudeau’s comments came on the same day the federal court dismissed his government’s appeals of two human rights tribunal rulings concerning First Nations child welfare compensation and protection.
The court has upheld a 2019 ruling that ordered the federal government to pay $40,000 to each of about 50,000 First Nations children and their families.
Cindy Blackstock is executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. She calls it a complete win for children and the survivors of residential schools.