The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | Orange Shirt Day

(403) 452-8018

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | Orange Shirt Day

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation | Orange Shirt Day

On June 3rd, 2021 the Parliament of Canada responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 80 by making September 30th a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  This was accomplished by amending sub-paragraph 42(a)(i) of the Bill’s of Exchange Act, subsection 35(1) of the Interpretation Act and section 166 of the Canada Labour Code In each case, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was added alongside other common holidays such as Sunday, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day and Christmas Day. 

As stated by the Government of Canada, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 

“honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as 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”. 

Another term for National Truth and Reconciliation Day is “Orange Shirt Day” – described as the legacy of St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981).   Support Truth and Reconciliation by wearing orange on September 30th. 

As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her shiny new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.

September 30th is a significant date relevant to Truth and Reconciliation because it represents the time of year that children were taken from their homes for placement in residential schools.  

In Canada, the residential school system was recognized in the Indian Act, 1876.  The residential school system was effectively a nationwide boarding school system for indigenous people. Residential schools were funded by the Canadian Government in collaboration with various church organizations as an assimilation project designed to isolate Indigenous children from their culture and religion.  The story of residential schools is one of tragedy and abuse.  The legacy of the system has been linked to post traumatic stress, alcoholism, substance abuse, suicide and intergenerational trauma that persists within Indigenous communities today.

September 30th is the day that we call upon humanity to listen with open ears to the stories of survivors and their families, and to remember those that didn’t make it. Today, courts are closed across the Province. 

Today is for reflection.

David Chow is a Calgary criminal lawyer who defends indigenous clients. Call for a free telephone consultation.