PBI-Canada observes the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Scream by Kent Monkman depicting the RCMP forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families to be taken to residential schools.

Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

The day honours the children who died at residential schools as well as the survivors, their families and communities.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their parents and sent to at least 139 residential schools as part of a campaign of forced assimilation.

In 1883, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald said in the House of Commons: “Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence.” That same year Public Works Minister Hector-Louis Langevin allocated $43,000 for the federal government’s first three industrial schools for Indigenous boys.

The last residential school closed in 1996.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented the deaths of 3,201 children at residential schools, its chair Justice Murray Sinclair has stated that 6,000 children may have died at these schools, but Cindy Blackstock and Pam Palmater have estimated that more than 12,000 children died.

There are also an estimated 80,000 Indigenous people alive today who carry the trauma of having experienced residential schools as children.

PBI-Canada recalls that the United Nations defines “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” as genocide.

Today is also Orange Shirt Day. This is a day that honours the children who survived residential schools and remembers those who did not.

It remembers Phyllis Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem nation who arrived on her first day of school in a new orange shirt only to have it taken from her.

Phyllis has shared:

“I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school! When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt!”

PBI-Canada rejects the violence of colonization, displacement, forced assimilation and genocide.

On this day, we also recognize the ongoing Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and justice on their lands in opposition to megaprojects.

This includes the Secwepemc struggle against the Canadian government owned Trans Mountain pipeline, the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the repression of Canadian police and the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) criminalizing the treaty rights of the Sipekne’katik nation to fish.



Photos: The RCMP raid on January 7, 2019 against Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their territories without free, prior and informed consent. Photos by Michael Toledano.

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