In June of 2021, the federal government declared September 30th a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation; a day dedicated to ‘recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools’. This day is meant to acknowledge the aboriginal culture and its people, and to bring to light the atrocities of the Canadian government and the church. It is a new federal statutory holiday meant to spread awareness of the Aboriginal culture and history.
This day, also recognized as Orange Shirt Day, is a day to honour Indigenous children that were taken from their homes, their culture, their families, and forced into Residential Schools; where kids were abused, tortured, and stripped from their culture and connections to their families and friends. The origin of “Orange Shirt Day” is from an Indigenous woman by the name of Phyllis Webstad from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem who was taken from her home at the of age 6 years old and forced into a residential “school”. Her grandmother had bought her an orange shirt for her first day, but it was taken away along with her other belongings. The colour orange is a reminder of the hardship she endured and survived and what she dealt with in the school. For this reason, wearing an orange shirt is one way to show your support to the movement and to the Indigenous people whose lives were taken from them.
“Every Child Matters”, is repeated over and over particularly on this day and the words speak for themselves. As a family law firm, the main goal when working with families is always the best interest of the child, therefore it is very significant to us. Children in these residential schools were made to feel as though their lives were worthless, that the way they were treated was justified by their lack of purpose and difference. September 30th is now a day to remind children everywhere, especially Indigenous children, that they are worthy and that their lives matter.
This day is meant to recognize the importance of the Indigenous culture, their communities, and their lives. It is a day to allow Indigenous people to express themselves, share their stories, and acknowledge their truths.
In order to be better allies, we must listen, have patience, and learn the stories of the Indigenous people and their history. We wore orange t-shirts and “Every Child Matters” bracelets made by Me Spunt and Me Carin. We got together as a team and discussed, encouraged everyone to read and learn. We bought new books for the firm to share throughout the office written by first nation authors in order to learn and understand through their perspectives. Below are a few of the book titles:
1. I am Not a Number, Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis, Kathy Kacer, et al.
2. Go Show the World, Wab Kinew and Joe Morse
3. Residential Schools: Righting Canada’s Wrongs, Melanie Florence
4. Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
5. Call Me Indian Fred Sasakamoose and Bryan Trottier
6. Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joseph
This is a step forward for Canadians, it is imperative to continue to fight for Aboriginal rights. Another way to help is to donate to any of the many charities. One we have contributed to is RAVEN, a charity in Canada that provides access to justice for Indigenous Nations trying to defend their environmental rights (https://raventrust.com/donate/). There is so much available information, videos and material to educate yourselves. Also it is a good reminder to be kind, thanks for reading!