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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2021

September 30 has historically been observed as Orange Shirt Day in recognition and remembrance of the legacy of residential schools. This year the federal government has marked this day as a statutory holiday, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. HSA invites you to reflect on your relationship on the Truths that are being shared and on your relationships to Indigenous Peoples. Understandably, with this being the first occasion there are uncertainties about how to mark this day.

For HSA Indigenous Members

We hope you have the day to mark in ways that are meaningful to you. As a gentle reminder the following support services are available:

  • The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is available at 1-800-721-0066 along with a 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419 for those who need immediate support.
  • The KUU-US Crisis Line Society provides an Indigenous-specific crisis line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's toll-free and can be reached at 1-800-588-8717.
  • The First Nations Health Authority offers support specifically for survivors and families who have been directly impacted by the Indian Residential School system.

The Children Who Never Made It Home

The TRC published a report in 2015, Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. Indigenous communities have been speaking about the missing children since residential schools began. The findings of unmarked burial grounds across Canada and the United States confirms what Indigenous Peoples have been saying. These are not ‘discoveries’. This is a confirmation of the Truth that has been spoken, but for so long never listened to.

Colonialization and Healthcare

Colonization of Indigenous Peoples in Canada has been, and continues to be, carried out through many systems like education, law, and healthcare. A recent example in BC news is the former Nanaimo Indian Hospital, which has been marked for investigation for unmarked burial grounds; those who were sent there to be treated for tuberculosis were often abused and some never returned. 

Content warning: abuse, torture: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/canadians-would-be-shocked-survivors-lawyers-describe-treatment-at-nanaimo-indian-hospital-1.4513476

With respect to healthcare, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action list 6 specific calls to action for healthcare (Calls 18-24). Please take time to familiarize yourself with the Calls to Action and think about the ways you might take action in your workplace or life in general.

Working Towards Reconciliation

If you have not already, consider reading In Plain Sight. We share with you the welcoming message found in this report, from Te’ta-in (Sound of Thunder), Shane Pointe who is a Musqueam Knowledge Keeper, whose motto is “Nutsamaht!” (We are one):

… When the other branches of our collective family think of us, there is a common perception of Indigenous peoples as being less than. Less able to care for ourselves. Less able to achieve. Less able to advocate for the services we need. This report is not about less; it is about unity and the fundamental rights of all peoples. It is about confronting and acknowledging the negative, while making room for the positive.

The Truth is, to be happy and balanced, we must know both the positive and negative aspects of our lives and the systems within which we co-exist. When pain and suffering have been inflicted on us, it is necessary to take the time to heal, assess and recover our strength. Positive healing energy will move us forward hand in hand with those who have hurt us. It is this collective energy that will bring true healing to the perpetrator and victim alike.

This Truth is what we build this report on, in structure, it is not to ‘name and shame’. Our goal is to build the collective strength necessary to advance as a whole and healthy society. The truths we have collected will help us – all of us – learn from our failures and successes to confront the uncomfortable histories and negative systemic practices that surround us so we can all begin to heal... (In Plain Sight, p.ii)

While many accounts of the Truth point to injustices that Indigenous Peoples have faced for too long, it is important to consider the ways that Indigenous communities have survived and to celebrate Indigenous success. As Shane Pointe states above, knowing both the positive and negative is important in steps towards collective healing. His generous reminder of the potential for our collective health, healing, and co-existence is a testament to the strength and resilience that can be found in Indigenous Peoples.

Events and Actions

The BC Federation of Labour has compiled a list of events that are happening around the province that you can participate in if you choose, and actions that you can take to increase your own understanding, or to further the call to action of elected officials on matters pertaining to public policy and truth and reconciliation.