Sept. 29, 2021
Call to Action 80: One Day and Every Day, This Year and Every Year
This Thursday, September 30th marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. To some, this is (and will continue to be) regarded as simply a “free” day off they can enjoy amidst their ever-busy week – the understanding of what this day represents being washed away along with the list of other observances we go through each year. However, whether we are Indigenous, non-Indigenous, Canada-born, immigrant, and so on, the fact is: We are on Indigenous lands. As people who reside on this land and the privileges that come with it, this statutory holiday is one that requires our attention. Perhaps this year – and every year moving forward – we challenge ourselves to do something different and actually reflect on the meaning of this particular holiday.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation comes from a long process of advocacy for Indigenous rights in what is now known as Canada. It is the response to Call to Action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC came about to redress the injustices Indigenous children and peoples were subjected to during the federally sanctioned Indian Residential School system and details 94 calls to action for the Canadian government in the domains of child welfare (1-5), education (6-12), language and culture (13-17), health (18-24), justice (25-42), and – with the most calls – reconciliation (43-94). This holiday is also co-commemorated as Orange Shirt Day in further recognition of the residential school experience on survivors, their families, and the thousands of Indigenous children who died while in the system.
On a national level, this day acknowledges the fact that, despite Canada’s (and Canadian people’s) international reputation of being “nice,” “peace-keeping,” and “a cultural mosaic,” it still has many skeletons in the closet (or in this case unmarked graves) of its racist colonial foundations. This action, however, is only the beginning of the Canadian government’s long process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, especially considering that Indigenous peoples have been voicing these issues for centuries. As of September 9, 2021 only 13 of the 94 calls to action have been completed, whereas 29 have projects underway, 32 have projects proposed, and 20 have yet to be started (see Beyond 94). For many Indigenous families and communities, this process has been arduous with the continuous re-opening of old wounds and the unveiling of new ones. At the same time, it has provided opportunity to connect – both with Indigenous kin and non-Indigenous aspiring allies, which has provided the much-needed space for communities to heal.
September 30th simply marks the day we have permission to pause our lives to reflect; it does not mean we get to stop for the rest of the year. As people who aspire to do better and be better, we may start with one day, but we can make those choices every day. Not just this year, but every year onwards.