On National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Canadians challenged to commit to reconciliation year-round

Today, Canada marks its second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — a time to remember children who died while being forced to attend church-run and government-funded residential schools, those who survived and made it home, and the families and communities still affected by lasting trauma.

Ceremonies are being held across the country to reflect on Canada's history with Indigenous people

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa

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Ceremony, Spirit Walk to mark National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa.

Today, Canada marks its second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — a time to remember children who died while being forced to attend church-run and government-funded residential schools, those who survived and made it home, and the families and communities still affected by lasting trauma.

The day was made a federal statutory holiday last year, realizing a recommendation made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Ceremonies will be held across the country to reflect on the country's history and treatment of Indigenous people. All federal government buildings in Canada — including the Peace Tower in Ottawa — will lower their flags to half-mast from sunrise to sunset.

Sept. 30 is also Orange Shirt Day, which honours the story of Phyllis Webstad, a former residential school student who had her orange shirt taken away on her first day at a residential school. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is encouraging Canadians to wear orange as an act of solidarity.

In Ottawa, the day started with an eagle feather ceremony on Parliament Hill in front of the Peace Tower, which included a traditional round dance that saw dozens of members from the crowd participate.

An orange flag with a circular design incorporating different Indigenous symbols in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

Anishinaabe (Algonquin) Elder Claudette Commanda spoke of how the day is a moment for Canadians to listen and reflect on their history.

"It's a day for you Canadians to listen, to learn, to understand, to have it in your heart and in your spirit to feel the beauty of Indigenous people, the strength and resilience of survivors, but to learn history," she said.

"Reflect on the truth, learn from the past, walk together in peace, understanding and healing. Walk together this journey called reconciliation," she said. "Everyday is Sept. 30."

The ceremony will be followed by a walk to nearby LeBreton Flats Park, where attendees will lay children's footwear on the ground to commemorate those who died in residential schools. A one-hour commemoration ceremony will take place there in the afternoon.

A year after spending the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on vacation in Tofino, B.C., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a sunrise ceremony in Niagara Falls, Ont., this morning. He will later be delivering remarks at a Truth and Reconciliation event in the area, before travelling to Ottawa for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation ceremony.

"It is our shared responsibility to confront the legacy of residential schools and the ongoing impacts on Indigenous Peoples, so we can truly move forward together," Trudeau said in a news release.

WATCH | Prime minister speaks at Beyond the Orange Shirt Story event in Niagara:

Prime minister speaks at Beyond the Orange Shirt Story event in Niagara

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at Beyond the Orange Shirt Story event in Ontario's Niagara region to mark National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Governor General Mary Simon challenged all Canadians to commit to reconciliation — not just today, but year-round.

"I encourage you to start the conversation at school, at work, at home: What will you do, today, tomorrow and every day, to be part of a better Canada, one that reflects us all?" she said in a statement.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre attended a sunrise ceremony in Ottawa this morning.

"Today, we listen to the survivors, remember those — the children — we lost, and commit to continue walking the path of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous people," he tweeted following the ceremony.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is also attending the ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Here's how to follow the events on all CBC platforms:

  • A one-hour commemoration ceremony in Ottawa will begin at 1 p.m. ET. This special event honours residential school survivors, their families and their communities, and includes a commemorative program from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, in association with APTN.
  • CBC News chief correspondent Adrienne Arsenault will host special coverage of the events starting at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBC, CBC Gem, CBC News Network, CBCNews.ca and the CBC News App.
  • On CBC Radio One and CBC Listen, Falen Johnson will host the live coverage, beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
  • CBC.ca will have regular updates and livestream the events.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Major

CBC journalist

Darren Major can be reached via email darren.major@cbc.ca or by tweeting him @DMajJourno.

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