Today is September 30, 2022. Today is the day we remember the natives of Canada who had to suffer through horrible instances that shaped their lives and changed the meaning of childhood for them. Today is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?
It is the day which is observed to remember the residential school survivors of Canada who were tortured and inflicted with utmost pain that would persist in their life. In June 2021, the federal government legislated 30th of September to be observed as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for the survivors of the residential school system. This was proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to publically commemorate the people who have suffered through this generational trauma.
Orange Shirt Day
This day is also observed as “Orange Shirt Day” because Phyllis Webstad, an indigenous girl, was gifted an orange shirt by her grandmother on her first day of school, which was September 30, and this shirt was taken away from her as soon as she entered the school, marking the commencement of an abusive school life. People all around Canada wear orange shirts to show solidarity and resistance towards torture and abuse against the indigenous communities of Canada. They have become a symbol showing that everyone matters’.
What are residential schools?
These are schools that were administered by the church between 1883 and 1996 in Canada. These had the sole purpose of erasing indigenous values, culture, and language and assimilating them into western culture. These children were taken by force from indigenous families, and after that they were taken into schools where they were tortured until they passed the school. Many of the children never made it out, and those who did never stayed normal.
“We were children, me and Lily, and neither of us survived, even though I’m still walking.”
- Michelle Good, Five Little Indians.
In the case of Canada, according to government figures, at least 150,000 First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children passed through the Canadian Residential School system. Starting from their arrival, they were given instructions and treated like prisoners, with a haircut and a uniform. These prison-like situations lead to the mass deaths of the people put under scrutiny. They lose their mental health, and they become an adult who is tortured, violated, and subjugated. These children were sexually abused and many died due to unbearable torture they were buried anonymously, without any family intervention. Children were made to work extensively without proper food and care. The punishments were worse, if one were to speak in aboriginal language, if they were bedwetting or playing or even smiling at the opposite sex they would get severe punishment which included whippings, strappings, beatings, and verbal abuse, public humiliation. .
It was not until the 21st century that the Canadian government formally established a committee to look into the abuses made in residential schools called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and in 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology for the harm and trauma caused by the school system. The horror of residential schools in Canada always shows up in some way or another, and the trauma lives on. In 2021, we saw 200 victims were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. The traces of the torture are still persistent, and the trauma lives on.