On Thursday, Sept. 30, many Canadians wore orange shirts for the country’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
In some communities, solemn services were held in honour of the Indigenous children who had been taken from their homes and families and forced to attend residential schools. These institutions, set up across Canada, operated from the 1880s until 1996.
Hundreds of Indigenous children died while in the care of these church-run institutions.
Earlier this year, the remains of 215 children were found buried at the site of one such school in Kamloops. Similar burial sites were later identified at other former residential schools elsewhere in Canada.
These horrific discoveries demand a response from non-Indigenous Canadians. The horrible legacy of the residential schools must never be repeated.
The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a place to start, but a one-day observance is not enough.
It takes little effort to wear an orange shirt for a day – especially if many others are also wearing orange.
Wearing a shirt can be a worthwhile symbol, but it becomes a thin gesture unless it results in lasting changes.
It is imperative that there is an improvement in the treatment of Indigenous people and attitudes towards Indigenous people by non-Indigenous Canadians. This will take a lot longer than one day, or even one day a year.
The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation must become a catalyst for systemic change and a way to ensure the appalling legacy of the residential schools is fully acknowledged by this country.
Future generations could see this day as an attempt at reconciliation and at resolving past wrongs.
However, it is also possible the day will be viewed as a hypocritical show, devoid of compassion and lacking in sincerity.
The legacy of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation will depend on the actions of non-Indigenous Canadians.
If it is to result in lasting changes, those have to come from the public, not just government leaders.
And they will require a lot more effort than simply donning an orange shirt for a one-day observance.
– Black Press
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