National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

On September 30 2021, one thing should be on the minds of all Canadians. The tragedy – and ongoing legacy – of the state-sanctioned practice of forcing Indigenous children away from their families and into residential schools.

For almost a century, about 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were stripped of their languages, their cultures and their dignity. Most suffered severe physical, emotional and sexual abuse. At least 4,000 children were killed during their time at these institutions in what can only be described as genocide: a history we are only now fully learning about thanks to the perseverance, resilience and resistance of Indigenous communities across the country.

Finding hundreds of unmarked graves at some of these former sites marked a turning point for the country ahead of Canada Day this past summer. Many cities cancelled their annual celebrations and held rallies and vigils in their place to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools. For many, it represented a time for reflection and mourning.

At Save the Children Canada, we believe a similar approach should also be the mood on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. We know our team members are keen to mark the moment and we have given them the day off so they can do so. Some will take part in events or show their support for survivors in other ways. Others may wish to reflect, learn and quietly contemplate the unjust treatment of Indigenous people, including the lives lost and the healing of survivors – in the past and now. We’re encouraging all staff to re-read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action as well as reach out to their newly-elected Member of Parliament (MP) to ask them to prioritize implementation of all 94 of them.

While the last of the residential schools closed in 1996, Indigenous children still face many difficult challenges in 2021. Save the Children Canada is acutely aware that not all children’s rights are equally realized in this country. First Nations, Métis and Inuit children are often the most deprived of their rights. That’s why our programs in Canada are focused on reconciliation through an Indigenous-led and child-centred approach.

We want a reconciled Canada – a nation of equity, respect and partnership, where every child attains the right to survive, protection, development and participation. We aim to amplify the voices of Indigenous people to achieve immediate and ongoing opportunities for their children.

With more than 100 years of history, Save the Children is committed to learn more about, and take responsibility for, any action – or inaction – that contributed to the discrimination experienced by Indigenous children and people. For true healing to occur, we must not be silent; we must speak out and take action against rights violations while holding ourselves, and others accountable. As a child’s rights organization, we must be aware of the unjust treatment of Indigenous children in Canada throughout the history of this country and its colonial history and legacy, and the ways we can participate in and support reconciliation.

Indigenous children and young people deserve a home where they can reclaim their identity, where their resilience is recognized and supported, and their culture celebrated.

The first Truth and Reconciliation Week and National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is an important moment in that process. But we all need to ensure that the positive actions and good intentions are carried over into every other day of the year, to contribute to meaningful and lasting change for all Indigenous people.

Learn more about Truth and Reconciliation week.

Feature image: © Province of British Columbia