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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: how you can recognize the day

September 21, 2021
Feature Stories

Thursday, September 30 marks Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

City services will operate on different schedules on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. To learn more, please visit National Day for Truth and Reconciliation schedule changes.

This day provides an opportunity to bring awareness to the painful legacy and impacts of the residential school system, particularly in light of the discoveries of unmarked grave sites at former residential school locations this year. It’s a time to advance our reconciliation efforts to build a better future for everyone in our community.

The federal government established the new federal holiday in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action #80. The Calls to Action provide important direction for all levels of government, institutions and all Canadians to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation.

In recognition of the importance of this day, Council moved to have the City observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation beginning this year. On Monday, September 27, Mayor Jim Watson will make an official proclamation to mark the day, and the Heritage Building and Marion Dewar Plaza at City Hall and the OTTAWA sign in the ByWard Market will be illuminated in orange at sunset on Thursday, September 30.

Working towards reconciliation

Reconciliation is the process of healing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, which requires public truth sharing, apology and commemoration that acknowledges and redresses past and present harms. Building meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities, including Indigenous worldviews in our everyday actions, and recognizing Indigenous sovereignty are all ways we can commit to this ongoing process.

The City continues to make progress towards our reconciliation commitments. Ottawa is built on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation, and the Ottawa region is home to an estimated 40,000 urban First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, alongside the Principles of Reconciliation, informed the development of the City’s first Reconciliation Action Plan in 2018, which includes work aimed at raising cultural awareness for City staff. The City has worked in partnership with Algonquin and urban Indigenous partners to deliver cultural awareness training for City staff, as part of our commitment to reconciliation.

Recognizing National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we can learn more and reflect on the meaning of this day by attending an event, reading the Truth and Reconciliation report, speaking and listening to Elders or taking a moment for quiet reflection. Reconciliation is a shared responsibility for all Canadians and requires action not just on this day, but every day.

Here are a few activities you can take part in to further your learning and recognize the day:

  • Jesse Wente, Unreconciled – Tuesday, September 21, 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Join Peter Schneider of the Canada Council for the Arts in conversation with Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster and arts leader Jesse Wente about his new book Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance. Visit Ottawa Public Library’s website to register for the virtual event.
  • Round Table of Algonquin Leaders on Truth and Reconciliation and Museums – Monday, September 27, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The Bytown Museum is hosting a roundtable of Algonquin Leaders from Kitigan Zibi and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation to discuss how Truth and Reconciliation intersects with the work of museums. Visit the Bytown Museum website for more information.
  • National Truth and Reconciliation Week – Monday, September 27 to Friday, October 1. Presented by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, this full week of online programming will feature short videos created by Indigenous storytellers, followed by conversations with Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Survivors and the children of residential school survivors. Register for the events on Eventbrite.
  • Kìyàbadj kidandanizimin. We are still here. – Wednesday, September 29, 7 pm to 8 pm. Ottawa Public Library is hosting a virtual storytelling event where Jenny Buckshot Tenasco, a residential school survivor, and her daughter Anita Tenasco (both members of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg community) will share reflections on how Canada’s residential school system has impacted First Nations education, poverty, systematic racism, mental health, strength and resilience. Visit Ottawa Public Library’s website for more information.
  • Remember Me: National Day of Remembrance – Thursday, September 30, 10 am to 5 pm. A national gathering to remember Indigenous children and families impacted by residential schools, presented by the Indigenous Arts Collective of Canada. The day begins with opening ceremonies at Parliament Hill, followed by a Spirit Walk to Confederation Park, concluding with music, art, presentations and installations. Visit the Remember Me website for more information.
  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day at Beechwood Cemetery – Thursday, September 30, sunrise to sunset. The Beechwood Cemetery Foundation has partnered with the Project of Heart, Assembly of 7 Generations and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society to host a public Day of Reconciliation educational program. The event includes a 45-minute Reconciling History tour, an outdoor screening of Spirit Bear and Children Make History, and public display of tiles created by youth across Canada to honour residential school survivors. Visit the Beechwood Cemetery website to register and find more information.
  • Visit Ottawa Public Library’s website for a curated list of online content and resources to learn more about Indigenous history, culture and our progress towards reconciliation.

An image of children's stuffed bears and shoes placed on top of an orange shirt.

Wearing orange: a symbol of remembrance

Whether you’re attending an event or taking some time to learn on your own, we encourage you to wear an orange shirt on this day to help spread awareness.

Thursday, September 30 coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which honours the story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a former residential school student who had her orange shirt taken away on her first day at residential school.

The orange shirt has become a symbol of remembrance of all Indigenous children who were removed from their families to attend residential schools where their language and culture were repressed, and many children experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The painful legacy of residential schools has had lasting impacts on residential school survivors and their families.

Hear from one of Ottawa’s poet laureates, Albert Dumont

Albert Dumont, “South Wind,” is a poet, storyteller, speaker and an Algonquin Traditional Teacher. He was born in traditional Algonquin Territory (Kitigan Zibi) and has been walking the Red Road since commencing his sobriety in 1988.

Last year, Albert was nominated as Ottawa’s English-language poet laureate for 2021-2022. Alongside the French-language poet laureate, Albert serves as a literary ambassador and represents the Ottawa poetry community in both Ottawa and beyond.

Listen and watch as Albert recites one of his poems for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:


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