Second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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The Baron wishes to acknowledge that the land on which we work, study, and live is the unceded territory of the Wolastoqiyik peoples, who have been here since time immemorial. 

The second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be commemorated by New Brunswick’s on September 30, 2022. 

Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron

This Friday is an unequivocally important day for all Indigenous communities who have been affected by the residential school system in Canada. The day honours the children who never returned home and survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. 

Public commemoration of the heart-breaking and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital element of the reconciliation process. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut will observe this day as a statutory holiday as announced by New Brunswick Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Arlene Dunn last week. 

The day is set to be treated as any other provincial holiday. All essential services, including health care, will continue to be delivered. The holiday will be optional for private sector businesses, the province said.

It is important to understand the gravity of the situation and the depth behind the day. 

What is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn, a group representing Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick, said:

“The day is set aside for people to remember and honour victims and survivors of residential schools, including children from First Nations who attended day schools.” 

September 30 was chosen to commemorate this day as it falls during the time of year when children were taken from their homes to residential schools. Moreover, the commemoration of the day taking place during the beginning of the school year is an opportunity to educate and alert more young adults about anti-racism and anti-bullying policies.

It is an occasion for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and local governments, schools and communities to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.

Why an orange shirt?

A common practice at residential schools was the confiscation of personal belongings including clothes.

Phyllis Webstad is the founder of Orange Shirt Day. (City News/Website)

This is exactly what happened to Phyllis Webstad, who attended the St. Josephs Mission Residential School in British Columbia. Her personal property, including an orange t-shirt gifted to her by his grandmother, was taken away from her the day that she was admitted into St. Josephs. 

The impact of residential schools on Indigenous populations 

Nothing short of decimation of the culture, traditions and languages of the Inuit’s, Metis and First Nation families was the mission of residential schools. 

Children from the age of four were separated from their families and never had the chance of experiencing their culture or even a stable, nurturing home environment. Children were not allowed to speak their traditional languages, wear traditional clothing or regalia, or practice traditional ceremonies. 

To break these unfair and tyrant laws was to bring havoc upon oneself. Survivors of residential schools speak of sexual, physical and emotional assault and psychological abuse by the hands of “educators”. 

The education at these schools was not only inferior as compared to that of white settler schools but also mainly focused on menial and domestic labour. Moreover, students were segregated based on gender, disallowing brothers and sisters to see each other. 

Indigenous peoples today not only suffer from deep rooted, ancestral trauma but also have ill physical health. Many of the illnesses and conditions that are disproportionately experienced by Indigenous peoples, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, can be attributed to the lasting effects of colonialism, including the Indian Act, the reserve system, and residential schooling.

The plight of Indigenous women

Indigenous women face, not only racism and police brutality, but also domestic and sexual abuse, disproportionately high rates of poverty, lack of access to ancestral property and are often subjected to violence, usually in the form armed conflicts.

In June 2019, the Canadian government released a report that stated that 1,181 indigenous women were killed or had disappeared across the country from 1980 to 2012. Although

Indigenous women only make up 4% of the country’s population, they account for 16% of all homicides and 11% of all missing people reports. Crime against Indigenous women has been on the rise more than any other violent crime in the country since 2012.

The sad truth is that the image of Indigenous women in Canada is still demeaning and dishonest.

Who’s land do you live on?

The Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaq are members of the Wabanaki Confederacy. (Portland Press Herald/Website)

In New Brunswick, the land is the unceded territory of the Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaq peoples. If you want to learn about the traditional territory of other areas, visit native-land.ca.

Thursday, September 29 is the last night of the Lorenzo Society’s Indigenous Film Festival. Students are encouraged to attend the last night of screenings. Furthermore, UNB will be closed on Friday, September 30 to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.