Bobcaygeon group says new statutory holiday finally acknowledges our racist legacies

By Roderick Benns

The establishment of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 is an important step in Canada’s journey to acknowledge its racist past, according to TRC Bobcaygeon.

While it was made a statutory holiday federally, the Ontario government has not followed suit, says Sherry Telford, one of the co-keepers of the local group.

“Of the various reasons we get a day off, a day to learn about Canada’s history and reflect on how to do better seems like something all governments in Canada should support,” say Telford.

The establishment of this statutory holiday is important for a number of reasons, says Telford. It was one of the 94 “calls to action” that the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada put out in 2015 as among the first steps toward reconciliation.

“It is also a day that has been called for by Indigenous people across Canada.”

In 2013, Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor, took the lead in this by sharing her story of having her brand-new orange shirt taken from her on her first day of school and Orange Shirt Day has been in place ever since, recounts Telford.

“Canada is finally and publicly acknowledging the painful and racist legacies of the residential school system,” she says, noting that finally, “Canada is listening.”

“The key is to continue on a journey of understanding, caring and respect.”

When asked what some good ways are for the average person to acknowledge this holiday. Telford says it’s a perfect day for reflection “and, if possible, for relationship building.”

She sees it as similar to Remembrance Day, in terms of how it might be celebrated.

“Anything we do to support initiatives, especially local initiatives, to foster awareness of the truth of our shared history, to build relationships among people and communities and to live more respectfully on these lands and waters, is, I think, a good way to acknowledge the day.”

Other ideas include finding out what’s happening in the community. For example, in Lindsay, check out the 215+ Children Taken & Orange Flag memorial on display at City Hall until early in the day on Sept. 30.

In Bobcaygeon attend TRC Bobcaygeon’s National Truth & Reconciliation Day Gathering at 5 pm by the library.

Other ideas include talking to children and grandchildren about the holiday, reading the TRC Summary Report, writing to the federal government to demand that all 94 calls to action are implemented, and donating to organizations working for reconciliation and better relationships in Canada.

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