Sep. 29, 2021
GSU Statement on Truth and Reconciliation
September 30th, 2021 is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and their communities.
GSU encourages you to learn about the history, to participate in an event, to reach out to a survivor and to open your heart. So much damage was done to the very souls of these children over the century from 1881-1996 when these places existed. In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott passed an amendment to the Indian Act to make attendance at these institutions mandatory for all under the age of 15. In his own words, the objective was “to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department…”
Orange shirt day began at an event envisioned by Chief Fred Robbins who was a survivor of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential ‘School’. He wanted Indigenous and non-indigenous people to gather to remember. The “Orange Shirt” comes from an experience recounted by Phyllis Jack Webstad - her grandmother had bought her a brand-new orange shirt for her first day at a residential school. When she arrived, they stripped her, and she never saw her shirt again.
This story sparked a grass roots movement where people wear orange shirts to remember and honor those children and their families. The money raised from orange shirts goes to support the survivors.
The history of Indian Residential Schools in this country is a sad story for many Canadians, but it must be told and remembered to ensure that things like this don’t happen again.
We must also recognize the actions the government still takes today, actions that we as a union must fight against. The residential ‘schools’ may be gone, but the practices have only evolved. Indigenous people are overrepresented in the foster care and prison systems. One institution has been changed for another and we must recognize that this is part of systemic racism that must be stopped.
There are many ways to learn about this history. We recommend reading the TRC reports, watch movies such as “We Were Children” and “Indian Horse”. Check your local communities, social media, and native friendship centers for events and information related to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Get involved, wear your orange shirt and when people ask about it, tell them.
GSU Equity Committee