National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation honours Indigenous children forcibly taken from their families to attend residential school. From the 1880s to 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children attended federal government funded, church run residential schools. Children experienced widespread abuse, malnourishment, neglect, loss of culture, and isolation from their families and communities. An estimated 3,200 children died while attending residential schools, but the number of deaths is likely much higher due to poor record keeping. This federal statutory holiday, established in 2021, is one of 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015).
September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day, a grassroots, Indigenous-led movement to honour children who attended residential school. Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, was six years old when she arrived at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School (near Williams Lake) in 1973. She was excited to attend school, proudly wearing a shiny new orange shirt that her grandmother had purchased for her. When she arrived at school, all of Phyllis’s clothes were taken from her, including her orange shirt, never to be returned. Phyllis said, “The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing.”
On September 30, we wear orange to honour Phyllis and all children who attended residential schools, reflect on the harm caused by the residential school system, and affirm that “Every Child Matters,” deserving love, kindness, and respect.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a time for learning, reflection, and acknowledgement.
As we move through grief and cultivate paths forward, we must acknowledge the shared legacies entwined in our service region so that we can provide services with intention and care, that are barrier-free.
Vancouver Island Regional Library opened its first branch in 1936. During our organization’s history five Indian Residential Schools operated on and near our service region. In addition, many Indigenous children from VIRL’s service area were forcibly sent to Indian Residential Schools in the lower mainland and the interior of British Columbia.
There were over 20 Indian Day Schools operating in VIRL’s service area throughout the organization’s history, with the last one closing in 1988. Indian Day Schools were located close to or on reserve lands and were another assimilation tool used by the Canadian Federal Government and churches that resulted in intergenerational trauma.
Nanaimo Indian Hospital, which operated from 1946 to 1967 was the only Indian Hospital operating in VIRL’s service area throughout the organization’s history. The building of Indian Hospitals in Canada was initially justified by the excuse of reducing the spread of tuberculosis, but they soon became the sites of atrocity and experimentation.
WHERE TO FIND SUPPORT
Support is available for those who need it. Please contact:
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS), toll free: 1-800-721-0066
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line 24 hrs, toll free: 1-866-925-4419
The KUU-US Crisis Line Society 24 hrs. toll free: 1-800-588-8717 or online kuu-uscrisisline.com
The BC Metis Crisis Line: 1-833-638-4722