September 30, 2023, marks the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by the Parliament of Canada. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent. This was done in response to Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 80, which states that the federal government will work with Indigenous people to establish a statutory day to “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.”
September 30 has been marked as Orange Shirt Day since 2013. Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not. This day relates to the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, on her first day of school, where she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt, which was taken from her. It is now a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. We join in encouraging all Canadians to wear orange to raise awareness of the very tragic legacy of residential schools, and to honour the thousands of survivors.
We honour First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and communities impacted by this system. During Truth and Reconciliation Week, September 26 to 30, we encourage schools to participate in events offered by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. On September 30, and throughout the preceding week, schools and school boards across Ontario, including students, staff, and school communities, will be commemorating the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, which more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend between the 1870s and 1997.
The education sector has a critical role to play in Truth and Reconciliation. Educators have the opportunity to build knowledge and shape an understanding of the lasting impact of the Indian Residential School system. Nurturing overall awareness and appreciation for Indigenous histories, knowledge, perspectives and contributions is essential to reconciliation.
Many school boards have already begun this work by developing collaborative relationships with their Indigenous Education Councils, implementing Truth and Reconciliation Action Plans and/or Indigenous Education Strategic Plans, as well as incorporating Truth and Reconciliation actions into their Board Action Plans.
School boards and school authorities are honouring the day in different ways. This includes:
(The text below is based on text provided by each school board)
Avon Maitland DSB
Leading up to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Avon Maitland DSB will participate in a variety of commemorative activities that encourage students to reflect on both the Truth and what Reconciliation means to them. These activities include:
- Raising Every Child Matters flags with a ceremony done by the Indigenous members of our team
- K-12 classes will participate in a painting session, Art to Inspire Action, with an Indigenous artist from one of the communities Avon Maitland has a treaty relationship with
- Sharing out a variety of social media posts that highlight resources and local events
- Supporting teachers with access to an internal National Day for Truth and Reconciliation elementary and secondary resources website, and
- A variety of other commemorative activities that will be done as a school collective within individual schools
Schools will be participating in a variety of activities during the week prior with official BWDSB recognition of the occasion occurring on September 29, featuring Indigenous themed ceremonies, assemblies, and the tradition of Orange Shirt Day for students and staff system-wide.
On September 28, primary and junior aged students across the district will have an opportunity to attend a virtual reading of the book, ‘Memengwaa – The Monarch Butterfly’, with local author Dorothy Ladd of Saugeen First Nation (organized by Bruce Grey Child and Family Services). Copies of the book will also be delivered to schools.
Elementary and secondary schools are being provided with funding to purchase Indigenous resources, which may be dedicated to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation materials, or for use throughout the school year. Other resources are being offered through BWDSB’s Indigenous Advisor, including the following titles: ‘Community Ties’ (Grades 3 to 6) on the importance of family and culture; ‘We are the Land’ (Grades 3 to 8) on exploring connections to the land; ‘Path to Wellness’ (Grades 3 to 8) highlighting balance for the mind, body, spirit, and emotions; and ‘Time for Change’ (Grades 3 to 8) on the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada, and the importance of reconciliation. Previously provided to schools were the titles, ‘With our Orange Hearts’, featuring the artwork of local Anishinaabe artist and visual storyteller Emily Kewageshig, and ‘Noodin’s Perfect Day’ by Anishinaabe singer-songwriter Ansley Simpson.
As always, BWDSB will highlight the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation/Orange Shirt Day on the board website and through a series of social media postings on Facebook, Instagram, and X corporate and school accounts all week long.
Public events hosted by local First Nation communities on September 30 will include the participation of many students and staff in Truth and Reconciliation recognition, dancing, and more. These include an evening for families, youth, and community members at Cape Croker Park in Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, and a day of activities in Saugeen First Nation.
DSB Ontario North East
DSB Ontario North East has a wide variety of activities planned at many schools in the district throughout the week of September 25 to 29. This includes Orange Shirt Days on September 28, community walks, special assemblies and classroom activities, and school smudges. Students will visit Friendship Centres, pow wows, plant orange tulips, and work with local First Nations to plan events in schools.
The HDSB will recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday, September 29 with a news release and a video from Curtis Ennis, Director of Education, and Margo Shuttleworth, Chair of the Board. In the days that precede it, students and staff across the HDSB will engage in learning that centres Indigenous perspectives and voices and provides important context for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.
On September 28, CC:ROSE (Cultivating Community: Reclaiming Our Spaces in Education) and the Indigenous Education family is hosting “Every Child Matters: Walking Together.”
For this Orange Shirt Day event we invite you to join us for a turkey dinner and a screening of Silent No More. The film gives viewers a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, the first and longest operating residential school in Canada. Special guests include The Gathering Song composer Carson Allard, Mohawk Village Memorial Park, Survivors of the Mohawk Institute and Chris Ashkewe, Associate Director of Woodland Cultural Centre, the former site of the Mohawk Institute. Attendees can also partake in learning through information booths on the Indigenous Education Circle Strategic Action Plan (IECSAP), CC:ROSE, Mohawk Village Memorial Park and more.
We also take time to remember that September 28 is National British Home Child Day.
We remember our commitment to the Earth. We ask all participants to make this a zero waste event by bringing their own reusable dinnerware and cutlery, also known as your feast bundle.
Hastings and Prince Edward DSB
As a system, HPEDSB will recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, on September 29, 2023. It is important that HPEDSB honours this day and acknowledges the harm done by residential schools in Canada. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has created a free educational program for Grades 1-12 (link below) and has a variety of resources to facilitate learning about the history and impact of residential schools and reconciliation.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a priority day in HPEDSB. Schools are asked to not plan other unrelated events for Friday, September 29, 2023 (e.g., Terry Fox Walk).
On September 29, students and staff at Lakehead Public Schools will participate in a variety of learning opportunities to deepen understanding about the Residential School system in Canada and our individual and collective roles and responsibilities in the work of reconciliation. In our schools on this day you will see school-wide read-alouds and shared experiences to action learning, guest speakers, student-led activities, virtual learning opportunities that center Indigenous voices, and lots of orange shirts to show our support and solidarity.
Lakehead Public Schools is hosting a two-part in-person session for staff to bead their own orange shirt pin. Lakehead Public Schools is pleased to offer staff the opportunity to promote “Every Child Matters”, engage with colleagues through a meaningful activity, and create a beautiful pin.
All members of our school communities are invited to join Lakehead Public Schools in the Honouring Our Children Run for Reconciliation on Saturday, September 30 at Boulevard Lake in support of Mazinaajim Children’s Foundation.
Superior Greenstone DSB
We at SGDSB recognize that we have the privilege of serving many various First Nation and Metis communities and organizations. It is our stance that how we engage in learning and honoring National Day for Truth and Reconciliation must come from consultation with Indigenous partners, with co-planned events and ways to honor the day and week. This means that each school participates in this learning in unique and meaningful ways with the guidance and collaboration of First Nation partners. These events of honoring the day include entire schools being invited to First Nation communities to hear stories and perspectives from the First Nation’s Elders and Leadership; students and staff participating in a sacred fire to honor those lost and the stories of the survivors who still walk with us today; celebrations of moving forward with both the school and First Nation communities; making of an “I Promise Quilt” stating commitment by students to specific calls to action; ceremonies and raising of the “Every Child Matters” flags, and more. Each school will have a unique approach in accordance to what local First Nation communities feel is important for the students to engage in and learn. The Manager of Indigenous Education assists with connections between schools and communities, and also has other resources available as vetted through Nishnaabe-Aski Nation, and Metis Nation of Ontario. We also use resources through FNMIEAO and ON-Core. We strongly encourage the community connections as a priority with the additional resources as supplementary to the learning. We have individuals trained in the KAIROS blanket to offer learning on the history of Indigenous peoples in what is now known as Canada that all staff and students have access to year round.
Trillium Lakelands DSB
One of the system-wide events TLDSB is hosting will take place on September 29. It’s called the Truth and Reconciliation Learning Event where schools sign up to join a live-streamed event with local Elders and Knowledge Holders who will share messages of truth, resiliency, and the importance of being part of reconciliation. The secondary level live-stream takes place in the morning and the elementary live-stream is in the afternoon. This is the second year the TLDSB Indigenous Student Success Team has organized this live event and it is recorded so all students will have access to this valuable learning throughout the day and for future viewing.
Upper Grand DSB
In this year’s preparation for National Truth and Reconciliation Week, educators are reminded that this time is an opportunity for Canadians to learn and act. This is not a week of celebration; rather, it is about commemoration for survivors, their families and the children who did not come home. Educators and all board staff are invited to learn and take action, by participating in activities and live-streams from the National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation, by reading the 94 Calls to Action, and, most importantly, by making individual and class commitments to fulfilling the Calls to Action. The Indigenous Education Team will be hosting two virtual professional development sessions during Truth and Reconciliation Week on Sept 26 and 27 to explore resources that will support teaching reconciliation in classrooms. Educators have been provided a slide-deck of vetted digital and in-school resources for specific grade levels that include live and recorded events, opportunities for action in classrooms, and ways for educators to further their learning.
UGDSB is acknowledging National Truth and Reconciliation Day (formerly Orange Shirt Day) on September 29 since September 30 is a Saturday. Staff and students are encouraged to wear orange shirts on September 29 and to share commitments with the Indigenous Education department so we can keep track of progress in our board.
If schools choose to fundraise, the Indigenous Education Team kindly requests funds be directed to Woodland Cultural Centre, the former residential school in Brantford.
Please remember that content associated with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation can be triggering for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, families and communities. Access to mental health and well-being services should be integrated into planning and can include the sharing of the Indian Residential School Crisis line: 1-800-721-0066.