By Chantelle Gray-Wheeler
September 30, 2021, marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada; a new federal statutory holiday which provides an opportunity for federal public servants to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools in Canada. The creation of this holiday is in line with #80 of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While we aren’t public servants at Laridae, in the spirit of reconciliation and in alignment with our organization’s values, Laridae will honour this special day each year.
Honouring the Day: Reflection and Time Off
Prior to its designation as a national holiday, we had already scheduled a team meeting to come together to commemorate Orange Shirt Day, a grassroots movement to recognize and raise awareness about the history of residential schools. After some reflection, we felt that it would be most appropriate to continue with our Orange Shirt Day meeting, then take the rest of the day off as a team to honour the new Day for Truth and Reconciliation in whatever way felt most personally meaningful.
Orange Shirt Day Session
During our Orange Shirt Day session, each staff member was tasked with researching and presenting information to the team about the residential school located closest to where they grew up. While doing their research, each person reflected on their own previous knowledge (or lack thereof) about the residential school as well as the short-, medium-, and long-term consequences that these schools had on the students who attended them, their families, Indigenous communities more broadly, and on Canadian society.
We then came together to discuss what this exercise taught each of us about the residential school system, and how we might integrate this new knowledge into our actions and relationships moving forward, both personally and professionally. Our exercise together led to a fulsome conversation, and we each left the meeting having learned something new.
Truth and reconciliation, to us, is expressed not only through learning, but also through action. Making space to learn and grow together was a small but measurable way for us to commemorate this important day of Truth and Reconciliation. While it is critical to move beyond a single day of remembrance, this day provides us all with an opportunity to reconsider the prevalent racist notions that abound in our society regarding Indigenous peoples, residential schools, and the settler colonial legacies that continue to persist.
At Laridae, we are very much committed to continual learning and growth in anti-oppression and anti-racism, both as an organization and as individuals, and we hope that you will continue to learn alongside us on this journey.