September 30 marks the end of FASD Month. Since 2013 in Canada September 30 was known as Orange Shirt Day. This year it marks the first annual National Truth and Reconciliation Day. The Government of Canada states:
The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent.
You can learn more by visiting the Canadian Heritage website.
In 2018 I wrote Orange Shirt Day, Truth and Reconciliation and FASD. It was updated for July 1 (Canada Day) when the first nationally recognized remains of children that were sent to Indian Residential Schools were discovered. I heard over 6,000 have now been found.
I did find an article: Why it’s difficult to put a number on how many children died at residential schools.
While wearing an orange shirt is significant to show support, there is much more action that needs to be done on a path toward reconciliation. Including unsolved missing and murdered Indigenous women.
It can seem overwhelming with so much. I heard a recommendation today that if we want to be allies we need to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian Reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made 94 calls to action. It was suggested to pick one Call to Action that speaks to you. And let that guide you into taking action.
Calls to Action for FASD
There are two Calls to Action from the TRC report that relate specifically to FASD:
To learn more, CanFASD – in partnership with numerous stakeholders – published the following reports that outline how Canada can address the TRC calls #33 and #34:
- Consensus Statement: Eight Tenents for Enacting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #33
- Truth & Reconcilliation Call to Action #34: A Framework for Action
- FASD Justice and Reconciliation: Tough Questions, New Collaborations
As part of its commitment to reconciliation, CanFASD released a Commitment to Indigenous Partnership, Reconciliatory Research, and Action in April 2020.
There was a lot of information and events today. I will list just a few of the resources I came across today that you can use to continue to listen and learn.
How To Talk To Kids About The National Day For Truth And Reconciliation
From an article on CBC written by David Robertson, a Cree author based in Winnipeg.
In the article he states, if a kid asks, “Why do we have to wear orange shirts at school?” it’s my belief that adults should be able to not only explain the reason why (that Phyllis Webstad had her clothing taken away, along with a new shirt her grandmother bought for her), but be able to connect that story to identity, assimilation and colonialism.
He goes on to say, note that I’ve referred to these institutions as Indian Residential Schools, not residential schools. Keeping in mind age appropriateness, acknowledge that what happened to Indigenous people was genocide. It wasn’t a “horrible mistake.” It wasn’t “cultural genocide.” It was genocide. Don’t shy away from that truth, because it’s indisputable. While we’re at it, I believe we need to stop saying that Indian Residential Schools were a “black mark” on Canadian history. They are a huge part of Canadian history that affects everybody. I see no value in “othering” Indian Residential Schools. And really, Indian Residential Schools are not a thing of the past when so many Indigenous people, families and communities are still dealing with the trauma they caused.
Here is a link to a list of books about Indian Residential Schools for all ages that the author put together. The CBC YouTube channel also has videos for children.
Looking for a Course to Learn More?
The University of Alberta is offering a free online course to inform Canadians about Indigenous history. Indigenous Canada is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada.
From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations.
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
Spirit Bear and Children Make History film (Available for free September 27 and October 1)
People are also encouraged to write your elected representatives and the Prime Minister to urge them to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. A letter template can be found on their website.
Click Calls to Action for a child friendly language guide.
Visit their website for 7 Free Ways to Make a Difference for more information on how to take up initiatives in your communities.
You can also visit: Legacy of Hope Foundation
Every Child Matters Coloring Pages
Free colouring pages from Hawlii Pichette. A coloring page can be a simple tool to engage children and gives them an additional way to show their support as they learn about why orange shirt day is so important. Coloring has been proven to have the ability to help relieve stress, generate mindfulness, engage active listening and help with the processing of emotions. And don’t forget, coloring isn’t just for kids! Click here.
Hawlii Pichette of Urban Iskwew is a Mushkego Cree iskwew artist and illustrator from Peetabeck Treaty 9 territory who currently resides in London ON. Born and raised off reserve in the small community of Cochrane, located in northeastern Ontario. Her work is deeply influenced by her culture, upbringing, and reflects the beautiful integral interconnections of the natural world.
The Survivors Flag
The Survivors’ Flag is an expression of remembrance, meant to honour residential school Survivors and all the lives and communities impacted by the residential school system in Canada. Each element depicted on the flag was carefully selected by Survivors from across Canada, who were consulted in the flag’s creation.
Remember Me A National Day of Remembrance
Finally, if you were unable to attend an event, you can watch the replay of Remember Me. A national gathering to remember Indigenous children & families affected by the Indian Residential Schools and all Indigenous child apprehension programs.
I hope that as a nation we can come together on a path of reconciliation and complete all the calls to action.