Contributed by: Tammy Arishenkoff, Media Coordinator Article Sources:
CBC Canada - CBC Explains 2021, Why Canada is marking the 1st National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this year, accessed September 2021, <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/first-national-truth-reconciliation-day-1.6188540>
WARNING: This story contains some disturbing details
Sept. 30 will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — an annual commemoration honouring the children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential school system.
The creation of the new federal statutory holiday was approved by Parliament days after the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed the discovery of roughly 200 potential burial sites, likely of children, on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Weeks later, the Cowessess First Nation announced a preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School east of Regina. Since then, more than 300 other potential burial sites have been identified, and searches are underway at sites across Canada.
While the discoveries have shocked many and led to an outpouring of grief and news coverage globally, Indigenous people and advocates say it had long been known and talked about that some of the children who were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools never made it back home.
When and why was the day declared?
In 2017, Saskatchewan MP Georgina Jolibois introduced a private member's bill to make National Day for Truth and Reconciliation an official holiday.
Two years earlier, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to examine the abuses of the residential school system, had called upon the federal government to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in one of its 94 calls to action.
In its final report, based on hearings held between 2008 and 2014, the TRC said establishing a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation would honour survivors, their families, and communities and " ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."
Who will mark the day?
The new statutory holiday applies to federally regulated workplaces, meaning that on Sept. 30, federal government offices, banks and post offices will be closed.
Many provinces and territories will mark the day as a designated holiday and day off for students. However, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario have chosen not to recognize Sept. 30 as a stat — a move that has been criticized by Indigenous groups and leaders.
Private companies and organizations can also decide whether or not to recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a day off.
How can I take part in National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
Memorials, educational and cultural events will be held in communities across Canada on the day, and the Department of Canadian Heritage is encouraging Canadians to read and reflect on the legacy of residential schools.
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