Reflections on the National Day of Truth & Reconciliation

It is vital that the commitment to Truth and Reconciliation does not fade just a few weeks after the first National Day.

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National Day of Truth & Reconciliation, September 30

Orange is the New Symbol of Truth & Reconciliation

The recent discoveries of 215 unmarked graves at a former Residential School near Kamloops, British Columbia and subsequent discoveries at other Residential Schools have brought the issue of Truth and Reconciliation sharply back into focus. While most Canadians were made aware of the excesses and degradations visited upon Indigenous children through such announcements as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Statement of Apology in 2008, the Idle No More movement, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with its 94 calls to action, few non-Indigenous people knew just how horrendous these “schools” were.

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215 - A poem by Bradley Crawford

Written in response to the 215 unmarked graves discovered in BC in May 2021.

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10 Things You Can Do: Kamloops Indian Residential School

Photo: Shutterstock

Trigger Warning: This article includes information about Residential School experiences

In May 2021, the remains of 215 young Indigenous children were found in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. While the school may have closed down in 1969 (and the last school in Canada closed in 1996), this news has brought the tragedy of the residential school experience to the forefront of the minds of Canadians and the world. Reactions from the federal, provincial and municipal governments have poured in, along with public outcry for further action.

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Back to School Then and Now

This article includes a video of a conversation I had with my father Chief Robert Joseph O.C, O.B.C, about his first day at residential school and how he felt when he took his children to school. 

The return to school in September fills some with great glee and others with a pit of dread in their stomach. This year, under the shadow of COVID-19, teachers, parents, and caregivers, alike share a common theme of deep concern and anxiety about how safety measures of physical distancing can be managed in classrooms, during recess and lunch breaks, and during sports activities in order to protect the students. 

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What is Orange Shirt Day?

As of September 30th, 2022, this article had been viewed by 128,000+ people who wanted to learn about Orange Shirt Day. Thank you for your interest and contribution to the recognition of Ms. Webstad's initiative, and for bringing awareness to the residential school legacy. Your interest and actions are helping change the world!

Orange shirt day is a movement that officially began in 2013 but in reality, it began in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school – new clothes being a rare and wonderful thing for a First Nation girl growing up in her grandmother’s care - but the Mission Oblates quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.

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The Final Solution - Which Government Used the Term First?

 “The final solution”

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The Indian Act, Residential Schools and Tuberculosis Cover Up

Class portrait of male students, nuns, a priest and school personnel at St. Anthony's Indian Residential School, Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, ca. 1950. Photo: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development / Library and Archives Canada / Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds / e011306856


Indian Act. R. S., c. 43, s. 1. 1884

11. The Governor in Council may make regulations, which shall have the force of law, for the committal by justices or Indian agents of children of Indian blood under the age of sixteen years, to such industrial school or boarding school, there to be kept, cared for and educated for a period not extending beyond the time at which such children shall reach the age of eighteen years.”

And so it began... the most aggressive and destructive of all Indian Act policies. Residential schools brought immeasurable human suffering to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples, the effect of which continues to reverberate through generations of families and many communities. Other policies were harsh but could be worked around. They banned the potlatch so practitioners went underground to hold ceremonies; they pushed people onto small reserves but they still were with family. But when they took the children that was unbearable.

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First Nations and Local Government Reconciliation

Photo: Shutterstock

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report in June 2015, the full impact of the Indian residential school system was brought home to most Canadians. Note that we do not say “non-First Nation” Canadians as the families of some First Nation survivors were unaware of what their family members suffered in the schools because it was too painful for the survivors to talk about. The TRC report, which urges Canada to confront the “cultural genocide” shocked, horrified and shamed most Canadians. The schools had operated within or nearby communities yet no one asked what went on there and many were unaware there was a residential school in the vicinity.

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Chief Robert Joseph Appointed to Order of British Columbia

On June 15, 2015, I, along with my sisters, had the great honour of witnessing our father, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, be appointed to the Order of British Columbia by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. To say I was proud would be an understatement.

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