The inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation arrives on Thursday and folks in and around London, Ont., will have a variety of ways to mark the occasion.
The new statutory holiday was introduced by the Canadian government over the summer and is drawn from one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls To Action, a report that was filed in 2015.
It also coincides with the annual Orange Shirt Day, which encourages the wearing of an orange shirt to honour the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, as well as the thousands of Indigenous children who never made it home.
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While the Ontario government chose not to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a provincial holiday, the City of London says it plans on observing it.
An “Every Child Matters” flag will be raised at City Hall, with the building itself lit in orange. The city’s J. Allyn Taylor building will also be lit orange and Londoners are encouraged to wear the colour as well.
Elsewhere, the N’Amerind Friendship Centre revealed on Tuesday that the city had painted the crosswalk in front of the non-profit organization orange in honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
As for events, the N’Amerind Friendship Centre will be starting the day with the Nibi Walk – Honouring the Survivors.
The walk starts at 7 a.m. and will see participants travel from the former site of the Mount Elgin Residential School in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation to the centre’s location on Colborne Street.
The N’Amerind Friendship Centre also has a five-kilometre race planned for the late afternoon in Springbank Park. The event is capped at 100 participants due to COVID-19 restrictions, and while registration has closed, donations are still being accepted on the event’s online registration page.
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Later in the evening, Londoners will have a chance to take part in an Indigenous pop-up market and Indigenous knowledge share on Dundas Place, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The event is hosted by Turtle Island Healing Walk, the local activist group that organized the walk of the same name in July that drew more than 10,000 people in honour of Indigenous children who died and suffered abuse at Canada’s residential schools.
Lead organizer Elyssa Rose says folks are encouraged to wear orange and stop by to have conversations about what truth and reconciliation means in London and its surrounding communities.
“All of the vendors that will be there are individuals directly in our community who will be showcasing and selling their work,” said Rose.
“When you stop by an Indigenous vendor or booth and they’re selling work, that work is close to them, that work is something that they’ve spent time doing and I think that’s really meaningful.”
The event is in partnership with Atlohsa Family Healing Services, where Rose works as the anti-human trafficking coordinator.
A number of speakers will be sharing remarks, including Oneida Nation Of The Thames Chief Adrian Chrisjohn and London Mayor Ed Holder.
“We will also have our big dance at 8 p.m. with our jingle dress dancers and Blue Storm Drummers,” Rose added.
“We will shut it down, have an honour dance, stand together, release orange smoke just as we did on July 1, 2021, and we will have that time to reflect and pause.”
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For folks who may not be able to make it to the in-person events, Western University will be hosting a free webinar at 10 a.m that’s open to everyone.
Understanding Residential Schools and Reconciliation will feature a presentation from Cody Groat, a Six Nations band member and an assistant professor in Western’s department of history and Indigenous studies program.
Groat’s presentation will touch on the residential school system along with his own family’s lived experience.
This will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Christy Bressette, Western’s vice-provost and associate vice-president of Indigenous initiatives.
Registration is available online and viewers are advised that the virtual event will include discussion of violence against Indigenous Peoples.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
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