Illustration by Udeshi Seneviratne
My suggestion is that the most appropriate way to honour these lost children should be to follow the lead of another holiday mourning loss. Remembrance Day.
Truth and Reconciliation Day is occurring for the first time this year as a federal holiday on September 30, but how should it be commemorated?
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
Thursday, September 30 will be the first day the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) will be honoured across Canada as a federal statutory holiday. The day honours and pays respect to the subjugation and loss that indigenous children faced in residential schools throughout Canada’s history. This is a unique statutory holiday for Canada, as it is the first holiday where Canada is commemorating a loss that it personally caused. That raises a question: how do Canadians commemorate the tragedy perpetrated by the very governments they once elected? I suggest that the most appropriate way to honour these lost children should be to follow the lead of another holiday mourning loss: Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day has a few similarities with NDTR. Both are on a set date every year, and both involve commemorating the loss of life. For Remembrance Day, it is tradition to go to a local cenotaph, designated to honour the lives lost, and at 11:00 AM, hold a moment of silence for the lives lost. I believe that this action could work for NDTR.
There are currently calls for the federal government and the provinces to build monuments dedicated to residential school survivors and those that were lost. With this, I think the design of the monument should be in such a way that it can be recreated on a smaller scale for cities and towns across the country. That way, on NDTR, people from all walks of life can go down to these monuments and have an official place to hold ceremonies. Whether this is a moment of silence or a memorializing event culturally aligned with the indigenous representatives of the area, it could make for an appropriate commemoration that incorporates the many communities across Canada.
When acknowledging NDTR there may also be difficulties about when, and for how long, one should pay tribute. For example, on this coming NDTR, the movie Venom: Let there be Carnage is coming out in theatres the night of September 30. If a person would like to see this movie on that day, would that be inappropriate? Is it considered disrespectful to have any kind of fun or enjoyment on September 30? The solution to this may also come from Remembrance Day.
Remembrance Day is commemorated at 11:00 AM on November 11 as that was the time that World War I ended in 1918. Commemorating the event during the morning hours when school has begun may be a suitable tribute time for NDTR. This may not be an elegant solution though. For some, remaining in a solemn mood for the whole day may be considered more appropriate. This will be a matter of opinion, but it may also be something that evolves as this event is commemorated in the years to come.
Wearing an orange shirt for NDTR, which is influenced by an Indigenous person who attended a residential school in Mission, BC and was stripped of her newly bought orange shirt, is already becoming synonymous with NDTR. It may also be a good idea though to commission an orange ribbon, or some sort of lapel ribbon, like a poppy, to the symbolic remembrance items as well. That way if anyone has difficulty being able to wear something like the shirt at their job, the lapel ribbon can act as a substitute. There are already ribbons acting like this, but in my opinion, they should be expanded on.
Navigating this day is going to be difficult in the immediate future, as we work to properly commemorate this new national holiday for fixing an unconditional wrong done by the country; but such steps are necessary. Including the indigenous people in these ceremonies, and doing grade school ceremonies would also add to teaching future generations of this wrong to ensure that it does not happen again. Reconciliation is about healing, but just as important is how we go about healing.