National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, 2021


A statement from the priest-in-charge of St. George’s Lowville on the occasion of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

I must acknowledge and thank lawyer Arjun Dhir, of the law firm Crawford Chondon & Partners LLP, who provided much of the background to this post in a recent blog.

You probably remember that earlier this year, the federal government passed a new law that proclaimed September 30th as a statutory holiday. Its official name is The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is an official response to one of the 94 Calls to Action in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

As on other federal stat holidays, banks and post offices will be closed today, and many transportation services will run on holiday schedules. Provincially, today is not an official holiday, but the provincial government announced that, “Ontario is working in collaboration with Indigenous partners, survivors and affected families to ensure the respectful commemoration of this day within the province, similar to Remembrance Day”.

This new federal holiday, “has been created to give everyone an opportunity to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools”. More than 150,000 Indigenous children were made to attend residential schools between the 1830s and 1997.

September 30th is also the date of Orange Shirt Day. For several years, people have worn orange shirts to remember Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools. So September 30th is an opportunity to reflect that more than 6000 children are thought to have died while attending residential schools. We also must remember the intergenerational trauma that affects survivors and their families today, and will likely continue for many years to come. So I urge those who have the necessary apparel to wear an orange shirt today.

Let us pray:
Gracious God, your Son Jesus Christ said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me ….” Today, on this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we remember with sorrow the past actions, injustices, and – yes – sins of Canadian governments and churches, that forced Indigenous children into residential schools, where they were treated callously and shamefully, and our own personal responsibility for knowingly or unthinkingly averting our gaze. May we realize that the word ‘holiday’ means ‘holy day’. It is not the same as vacation. So let us resolve to spend time today in the holy activities of remembrance for what happened in the past, reflection on where we might be able to contribute to truth and reconciliation today, and resolution to act on those twin principles whenever possible, now and in the future. Remembrance; Reflection; Resolution. We ask for God’s help in our task. Amen.