How to Honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
September 30, 2021 will be the first year Canada marks the observance of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. As described by the Government of Canada, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation “honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.” Learn more about the day, how each province observes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021, and how you can commemorate this day on September 30.
What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation surveyed the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in late May 2021 and uncovered the remains of 215 children buried at the site. On June 3, 2021, days after this discovery, the federal government passed legislation to designate September 30 as an annual federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This new statutory holiday was also a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action report and specifically Call to Action #80.
“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 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.” – Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #80. Read the full Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action report here.
The 94 calls to action, which was commissioned in 2015, advise governments, educational and religious institutions, civil society groups, and all Canadians to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” by acting on the 94 calls to action. By acting on Call to Action #80, September 30 is now observed as a day to remember, reflect, and learn about Canada’s dark past with Indigenous people and commemorate the survivors, their families, and their communities.
The date coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which started in 2013. Orange Shirt Day’s mission is to “open the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind.” Support can be shown for both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day by wearing orange on September 30.
How the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is Observed Around Canada
Since 2021 is the first year the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is recognized, how it’s observed can change in the future. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is officially recognized as a federal statutory holiday, which gives federally regulated workers a holiday on September 30 to honour and commemorate our Indigenous history and legacy. Provinces, cities, employers, and schools are all deciding differently on how to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021. See how the provinces and territories will be observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021 and some of the events you can attend (please specifically check with your own municipality, employer, and/or school on how this day is observed):
The BC provincial government is advising provincial public-sector employers to commemorate September 30, 2021 – most public services will still remain open but may be at reduced levels. Most schools, post-secondary institutions, some health sector workplaces, and Crown corporations will be closed.
The Alberta provincial government encouraged all Albertans to “reflect on the legacy of residential schools” on September 30, while leaving individual employers in provincially regulated industries to decide on implementing a statutory holiday.
The Saskatchewan provincial government will not be observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday.
Manitoba is one of the four provinces that has formally recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday for public servants. The Manitoba provincial government stated that schools are closed and Manitoba’s public servants will observe the National Day. Non-essential government services and offices will also be closed on September 30.
The Ontario provincial government is not making the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a provincial holiday.
The Quebec provincial government has not made the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a holiday.
The New Brunswick provincial government has chosen not to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a holiday.
The Nova Scotia provincial government has officially recognized the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday. Public regulated industries, including government offices, childcare centres, and schools will be closed on September 30.
Prince Edward Island
The Prince Edward Island provincial government will be observing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday. All provincial government offices and schools are closed on this day.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government will be joining the federal government to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday for the provincial public service. All provincial government offices and entities will be closed on September 30.
The Yukon territorial government is choosing not to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday.
The Northwest Territories territorial government will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday for all public servants, including teachers.
Like The Northwest Territories, the Nunavut territorial government is also recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday for public servants.
Learn, Watch, and Listen Online
There are also many ways to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation virtually. Manitoba Arts Council compiled a fantastic list of virtual events and resources to learn, watch, and listen about the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
How You Can Commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Along with checking out the resources from Manitoba Arts Council, we have compiled a list of additional resources for you to visit to help you become more informed on Indigenous history, culture, and the subject of truth and reconciliation.
- The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is a great resource. Find official reports, Truth and Reconciliation Week videos, and more.
- Government of Canada’s Learning Journey
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action Full Report
- National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Final Report
- Indigenous Corporate Training Free eBooks
- Orange Shirt Day
Cove’s Pledged Support for Indigenous Communities
At Cove, we use our business as a force for change. That means being deeply committed to our local communities, including our Indigenous communities in BC. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve visited several on-reserve communities, such as Homalco First Nation and Leq’:ámel First Nation, to help them on projects that were important to them. We cleaned up the reserve land from trash that was dumped by non-reserve locals along their highway frontage, planted a community garden, and power washed their community hall.
During these times, we also learned about their lived experiences, including the elders’ experiences in residential schools and in foster care and the intergenerational trauma that they dealt with, such as the resulting issues around mental and physical health, including addiction. We learned about traditional medicines, their history, culture, and economic development challenges.
With the onset of the pandemic, we were unable to complete the projects we planned on reserves, so we pivoted to providing financial support and virtual mentorship to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Skills Centre in North Vancouver. Additionally, as there were challenges travelling to remote communities during the pandemic, we partnered with Iskwew Air, an airline founded by a First Nation woman, to fly needed PPE and supplies into three communities in North Central BC.
We find that not only are we filling a need, but we are also learning and growing into better people because of these experiences and relationships with our Indigenous communities. We’re always continually learning from the Indigenous communities we visit, and we hope to continue to participate with and learn from them when it’s safe to do so.
Although none of the provinces and territories have chosen to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday in 2021, Cove is observing September 30 as a statutory holiday for all staff to take the time to recognize the tragic past of residential schools and honour the survivors, their families, and communities. Our office will be closed on Thursday, September 30, 2021.
Reconciliation goes further than just a national day of observance for those who have dealt with the intergenerational harm from residential schools. It’s about providing access to sufficient, reliable, clean drinking water, food security, and basic human rights on First Nations reserves. And for all Canadians in the country, it’s about being educated on Indigenous history, which has often been told to us from a European-centric perspective or overlooked altogether. On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we hope you can join us in acknowledging the tragic legacy of residential schools and honouring the survivors, their families, and their communities.