Laurier invites community to honour National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

On Thursday, Sept. 30, Wilfrid Laurier University invited the community to participate in virtual events to honour the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

More than 1,309 unmarked graves of Indigenous children were discovered during the summer at former residential schools: 215 in Kamloops, B.C., 182 in Cranbrook, B.C., 751 in Marieval, Sask. and 160 on Penelakut Island, B.C. 

Most of these children died of disease, malnutrition and isolation from their families due to the harsh conditions and treatment they endured.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day of remembrance and reflection intended to honour First Nations, Inuit and Metis survivors of residential schools. In addition, the holiday also honours the lost children, their families and ensures that communities participate in public acknowledgement and commemoration for their tragic and painful history.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses are located on the Haldimand Tract, traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples.

To honour this day of reflection, the office of Indigenous Initiatives collaborated with WLU to connect the community with resources to help educate people on the history of residential schools in Canada and their lasting impact.

Listening to survivors testimony

The office of Indigenous Initiatives shared a pre-recorded video about the legacy of residential schools. It featured an interview conducted by Darren Thomas, associate vice-president of Indigenous Initiatives. Thomas interviewed  Six Nations community member Sherlene Bomberry, who shared her experience as a child at the Mohawk Institute and her journey to healing and helping other survivors.

There was also an Orange Shirt Day event by the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford. The event included a Thanksgiving Address with Elder Tehahentah Meller and a virtual tour of the Mohawk Institute Residential School –– one of the only residential schools still standing; operating from 1831 to 1970, survivor testimonials and questions and a presentation of Truth and Reconciliation.

Save the Evidence Campaign

Community members had the opportunity to purchase an orange shirt from the Woodland Cultural Centre. One hundred percent of its proceeds went towards the centre’s Save the Evidence campaign, which aims to raise funds to restore the former Mohawk Institute Residential School into an interpretive heritage site designed to educate visitors on the history of residential schools

Social Media

The WLU community was encouraged to wear orange shirts and post to social media, using the hashtags: #EveryChildMatters, #OrangeShirtDay and #LaurierIndigenous.

Celebrating Indigenous Musicians

The Faculty of Music hosted a musical performance called “Children Are Sacred: A Fundraising Concert” to celebrate Indigenous musicians and honour the lost children, which raised $2,535.

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