National Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day

On September 30, OCDSB students and staff will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day. 

Background

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

In June 2021, the Government of Canada passed legislation to make September 30 a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This action was in response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) Call to Action #80, which asked that the federal government collaborate with Indigenous peoples to establish a statutory holiday to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Orange Shirt Day

In May 2013, September 30th was established as Orange Shirt Day, a day to recognize and educate students and communities on the history and legacy of Canadian Residential Schools. 

Orange Shirt Day was created during the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project in Williams Lake, BC. 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, which prompted the realization that many survivors have similar stories. For more, visit: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/.

Taking Action

What the OCDSB is doing:

The OCDSB recognizes and acknowledges our unique responsibility and commitment to the diverse population of Indigenous students we serve.

  • It is our responsibility to teach all students the truth about the ongoing legacy and significant impacts of colonialism, and, in particular, residential schools, including the loss of Indigenous life, language and culture.
  • It is our responsibility to embed and celebrate the beauty, richness and diversity of Indigenous people, traditions, culture (historical and contemporary), and ways of knowing into the everyday lives and learning of students. 
  • It is our responsibility to provide education that is free from oppression and shame and to build a path forward in collaboration and partnership with care, creativity and innovation. 

To support meaningful learning and reflection on September 30th, the OCDSB will:

  • Produce an opening and land acknowledgement for schools to replace the usual opening exercises, featuring Monique Manatch, traditional knowledge keeper, Algonquins of Barriere Lake and OCDSB Education Director Camille Williams-Taylor;
  • Share learning activities and resources for use in the classroom for educators
  • Provide professional learning activities 
    • for use by school-based staff who do not work in classrooms and staff in central departments;
    • for all instructional coaches and consultants to build capacity to support learning that celebrates Indigenous excellence, fosters meaningful learning about the impacts of colonization and residential schools, and furthers our commitments to the TRC Calls to Action; and
  • Share resources to support parent and family engagement in marking this important day

9 actions you can take:

We have received questions from parents and students wondering how you can mark this day. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. There are specific sections for public servants, health workers, education workers, and those who work in the justice system. Reflect on how we can achieve these goals together.
  2. Wear orange as a symbol of support and reflect on the meaning behind it. Should you choose to purchase an orange shirt for this day, we recommend buying from an Indigenous company.
  3. Support a local Indigenous organization: If you are able, consider making a financial donation to a local Indigenous organization. For example, public servants can support Indigenous causes through your Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign. 
  4. Watch films and documentaries that reveal truth and reflect Indigenous histories and present day. (For example, We Were Children, Our People Will Be Healed by Alanis Obomsawin, 2017) 
  5. Write to your elected representatives and the Prime Minister to urge them to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. 
  6. Listen to Indigenous podcasts, artists and music
  7. Support Indigenous artists and musicians
  8. Expand your understanding of Indigenous history and contemporary issues. For example, you can sign up for a free online course through the University of Alberta. 
  9. Discuss what you have learned with family and friends

Support for Indigenous students and families

Please note, this is not a statutory holiday in Ontario and schools will be open, with learning activities taking place. However, Indigenous families may decide to keep their children home on that day to engage in activities with family and community. 

Indigenous self identification is a confidential process and should not be understood as a requirement for students or staff to be away from school on this important day. There is no expectation that students who are away from school on this day participate in any school-related activities. Teachers have also been asked to not schedule tests or make assignments due on September 30th.

Community and mental health resources

National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: This provides support for former students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services can be accessed by calling the 24-hour national crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.

Non-Insured Health Benefits: This is provided based on Status and N Number. Call General NIHB Inquiries at 1-800-640-0642 (toll free) and ask for the list of practitioners in Ottawa. This service includes 20+ sessions of government paid mental health counselling support per year.

Free mental health counselling for those who have attended residential school, or have a close family member who attended residential school: Regardless of status or N number, visit https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1581971225188/1581971250953.

Inuuqatigiit Center for Children, Youth and Families: http://inuuqatigiit.ca/.

Métis Nation of Ontario: Call 1-877-767-7572 for the 24/7 crisis and addictions line, or 613-217-3143 for children and youth looking for non-urgent support services.

Minwaashin Lodge Centre for Indigenous Women: https://www.minlodge.com/.

Hope for Wellness: Telephone counselling available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-855-242-3310 (Services available in English, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut)  https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/

Talk 4 Healing: This is a service for Indigenous women. Call 1-855-554-HEAL (Available in 14 languages) https://www.talk4healing.com/.

Odawa Native Friendship Centre: http://www.odawa.on.ca/home.html.

Wabano Centre: 613-748-0657 https://wabano.com/health-and-wellness/mental-wellness/.

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