Laurier honours the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
On Friday, Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was recognized across Canada. The day honours survivors of residential schools and the lost children who never returned home.
“The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is for all to reflect and think about both the historical and ongoing impacts to consider how we make a better Canada for all. Reconciliation is not the responsibility of Indigenous Peoples, it is the responsibility of Canadians to reconcile with Canadian history,” Darren Thomas, Associate Vice President of Indigenous Initiatives and a professor of Indigenous Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said in an email to The Cord.
The Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada outlined 94 Calls to Action for the Canadian Government.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation fulfills Call to Action 80. Although, according to CBC News’ Beyond 94, only 13 Calls to Action have been completed.
“… we have a long way to go in Canada for fully reckoning with the past treatment of Indigenous Peoples across the country but also the continuing impacts that colonization has on our communities to this day …” Lianne Leddy, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts, said.
Nationwide, Canadians showed support for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by wearing orange shirts; a practice that developed due to Phyllis Jack Webstad’s story.
The Orange Shirt Story is a children’s book by Webstad in which she outlines her experience of being taken to a residential school at six years old and having her brand new orange shirt stripped away.
Orange shirts and Webstad’s book can be found at the Laurier Bookstore with proceeds going towards the Woodland Cultural Centre, an Indigenous culture centre in Brantford located on the site of a former residential school in Ontario.
Decolonization and decolonizing education are also featured in the 94 Calls to Action. This is an important issue that affects institutions across Canada, including Wilfrid Laurier University.
We have a long way to go in Canada for fully reckoning with the past treatment of Indigenous Peoples across the country but also the continuing impacts that colonization has on our communities to this day.Lianne Leddy, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts
“ … this isn’t something that can only be done by Indigenous people. We have to have the support of administrators and our colleagues to be able to support Indigenous students through their learning journeys,” Leddy said.
This year, Laurier offered resources and support across different sectors for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which can be found on the university’s website.
“For me, as an Indigenous person, a member of our community here at Laurier as a professor, I was really heartened to see the messaging that was sent out in advance of this important day ,” Leddy said.
Multiple events were held this year, with some being organized by Laurier while others were orchestrated by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.“Last year and this year many have asked why we did not do more public events, the question is who will plan and host these events? If we would rely upon the Indigenous staff and faculty to do plan and coordinate such activities, it is a bit of asking veterans to plan their own events on Remembrance Day,” said Thomas.
“… [the events held this year] really show a variety of and amplify Indigenous voices,” Leddy said.
On Sept. 27, a book launch for Ǫ da gaho dḛ:s by Elder Norma Jacobs was held on both campuses.
“ … [Elder Norma Jacobs] engaged with many of her Cayuga teachings with other faculty members and students including myself who sat with those teachings and we worked together on them,” Leddy said in regards to the event.
On Sept. 28, The Robert Langen Art Gallery hosted a reception featuring art by Christi Belcourt.
“[Belcourt] is a very well-known Metis artist and brings a lot of knowledge to her artwork that is based on the land and water …” Leddy said. The exhibit titled Take Only What You Need is running until Dec. 6.
On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, events were run around all Laurier campuses.
The Every Child Matters Walk, hosted by The Healing of the Seven Generations, took place in Kitchener.
“This legacy will be hard to overcome, which is why I feel our role at the university is to bring this content into all of our programming at Laurier. We as a university and those that are in a position to impact change have a role, duty, and responsibility to aid in the efforts of truth and reconciliation,” Thomas said in regards to the lessons that the WLU community can take out of the National Day for truth and Reconciliation.
To donate to the Indigenous Knowledge fund and the Indigenous Student Emergency Fund, visit give.wlu.ca