National Day for Truth & Reconciliation is Sept 30

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (also known as Orange Shirt Day) is on September 30, 2021. The Government of Canada declared September 30 as a federal statutory holiday, making it our sixth and most recent statutory holiday. The holiday recognizes and remembers the tragic history and honours the survivors of residential schools. These schools were underfunded and inflicted abuse on children leaving long-lasting impacts. It’s also an important day for all Canadians to learn about Canada’s Indigenous history.

For newcomers, it’s essential to know the history of the country you are joining. And to reflect a more inclusive history, Canada will update its citizenship guide with information about residential schools. This update will help newcomers to learn about the wrongs committed against the Indigenous people. And, by exposing the truth, we can move towards reconciling what Canada has long ignored.

Origin of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Since its founding in 2013, Orange Shirt Day has helped Canadians learn about past mistakes and remember the legacy of residential schools. More than that, it symbolizes how Canadians are striving for a future where all Indigenous people have equal rights.

History of Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day recognizes the harm that residential schools caused to Indigenous children, families, and communities. The day is based on the story of Phyllis Webstad. She was an Indigenous girl of 6 years when she was forced to go to a residential school.

Phyllis lived with her grandmother on Dog Creek Reserve and never had a lot of money. However, her grandmother still managed to save enough money to buy Phyllis a brand new orange shirt to wear to school. Phyllis was excited to go to her residential school. But she did not yet know about the horrors that would be awaiting her.

Once she reached the school, she was forced to take off her orange shirt and she never saw it again. The orange shirt has come to symbolize how it was for Indigenous children to attend residential schools. Not only did these schools forcefully assimilate children but they also took away all meaning of life for them.

Orange Shirt Day is a way to fix the injustice done to the Indigenous peoples. It is also a stark reminder of the kind of place Canada would be without its accepting and inclusive environment. Canada is full of many great things but one of the greatest things Canadians have is a sense of unity, no matter what our backgrounds are. Let’s never forget that as we move into the future. The national day for truth and reconciliation allows Canadians to pause and reflect on the meaning of the day.

Every year on September 30 people across Canada wear orange shirts to remember the children who were taken from their families to residential schools.

Watch Phyllis Webstad tell her orange shirt story

Remains of Indigenous Children Found in Kamloops, B.C.

In May of 2021, there was a shocking discovery in the city of Kamloops, British Columbia. The remains of 215 Indigenous children were found buried near a residential school. Kamloops Residential School was one of the biggest residential schools in Canada. Sadly, the remains belonged to the children who attended the school.

More remains were found near other residential schools in Canada revealing a dark chapter of Canada’s history. So it’s our job as Canadians, to honour the survivors of residential schools and recognize their losses. These discoveries should urge all Canadians to learn from the past and to avoid making the same mistakes.

What is Canada Doing about This?

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools recommended specific actions to reverse the injustice. And on June 3, 3021 the Canadian parliament passed Bill C-5 to designate September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This day encourages Canadians to learn about the darker parts of Canada’s past rather than to hide from it. It’s a day to learn about key historical events. Only when every Canadian knows about the crimes committed against Indigenous peoples can we move forward as a nation.

Related Post:

Canada Day 2021 | What it Means to be Canadian

Provinces Recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

So far, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Northwest Territories are recognizing September 30 as a statutory holiday. The rest of the provinces and territories will leave it up to individual employers to treat it as a holiday. As a federal statutory holiday, all employees that work for the federal government will have a day off. As well some schools will be closed.

And for all Canadians, whether you’re at work, school, or home it’s a day to honour the survivors and communities of residential schools. Whether you wear an orange shirt on September 30 or take time to reflect on the past, you can share your support!

For more information, tools, and resources about living in Canada, check out our Settling in Canada resource page.