Truth and Reconciliation Day 2021

Being an Ally this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Monday, September 27, 2021

On September 30, 2021, the country will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation - a statutory holiday set by the federal government to honour Residential School survivors as well as the children who were taken from their families and lost their lives through the system. 

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation responds to Call to Action 80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action"We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."

2021 has seen the discovery of numerous mass graves at Residential School sites across Canada. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day of remembrance and grieving for Indigenous people. For non-Indigenous folks, it is an opportunity to listen, learn and become better allies to Indigenous communities. 

The day is also known as Orange Shirt Day - based on the first-hand account of Residential School Survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad about her first day as a six-year-old, when her brand new orange shirt, given to her by her grandmother, was taken from her.

Nicole Smith is the YWCA's Aboriginal Infant Development Program Advisor/Consultant for the Coast Fraser North Region, based at YWCA Crabtree Corner Community Resource Centre. She shares some thoughts on how people can be better allies to Indigenous communities, not just on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, but all year-round:

"To me how to be a better ally to Indigenous peoples and community means not only supporting us by educating oneself with the colonial past that has been in the spotlight over the last few years. It's also celebrating our beauty, resilience and strength.

What this can look like is, yes, supporting things like Orange Shirt Day but also showing up to our events on national Indigenous People’s Day, learn about the territories you occupy, go to our art shows, our movies, read our books we have an unlimited number of amazing authors talking about so many important topics. We are still here and we are still practicing our cultures through dance, art and knowledge sharing.

Support our businesses. Invest in us with your presence when we are showing our strength not just showing up when we are in our resilience.

We are still here."


Events you can attend on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

(translation: call to witness/listen to respected one)
Thursday, September 30, from 12pm
ŠXʷƛ̓ƏNƏQ XWTL’E7ÉNK Square (formerly known as the Vancouver Art Gallery North Plaza)

Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ is a performance to honour Orange Shirt Day on Thursday, September 30, 2021, presented by the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Blending traditional Coast Salish song and regalia with contemporary music and performance, Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ asks the viewer to bear witness to the ongoing tragedy of the lost children of Canada’s residential schools and the country’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. 

This event is free and open to the public.

Indigeneity Rising: Celebrating Our People, Our Stories, and our Traditions
Thursday, September 30
Museum of Vancouver

What does it mean to be Indigenous in Canada? For more than a century, this nation has appropriated symbols of Indigenous Identity as part of nation building narratives, while enacting laws that undermined cultural and family connections within Indigenous communities.

This exhibition celebrates those who kept memory alive in difficult times; those who had the determination to do the work of knowledge repatriation; those who now mentor; and those who are forging new paths of creativity and resilience within their respective communities.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Reflect on our History. Connect to The Land.
Thursday, September 30
Skwxwú7mesh Lilwat7úl Cultural Centre, Whistler 

September 30 will be a day of reflection and truth for the staff and visitors to the SLCC. Survivors from residential schools will speak. The Warrior song will be sung. Stories will be told. A seven-foot totem will be unveiled, commemorating the children of residential schools, and those missing and buried in unmarked graves.

Indigenous-owned Businesses you can support:

Sḵwálwen Botanicals

"Honouring cultural plant knowledge, Indigenous science and self-care rituals, Sḵwálwen (squall - win) offers skincare experiences grounded in the natural world. Founded by ethnobotanist Leigh Joseph of Squamish First Nation, this is plant medicine for skin and spirit."

Salmon and Bannock

"We are Vancouver's only Indigenous owned and operated restaurant. We use the traditional ingredients that our Grandmothers and Grandfathers used before us. We use these authentic flavours to create wonderful and delicious modern dishes."

Talaysay Tours

"Talaysay Tours offers you an authentic Aboriginal cultural and eco-tourism experiences in and around Vancouver, Squamish and the Sunshine Coast. We also offer on-line virtual tours via Zoom. Our First Nation guides will share ancient and contemporary stories, legends, and our Aboriginal ways of living as we take in the sights of old growth forests, wildlife, beautiful northwest coast views and the flora and fauna of the season. Join us as we share our knowledge, and delve into the rich history and landmarks of our remarkable west coast."

Spirit Works

"Authentic Indigenous Products and Indigenous Arts from the West Coast. Bentwood Boxes, Native Pewter Jewelry, Traditional Wood Jewelry and More."

Mr Bannock

Mr. Bannock is a fully owned and operated Indigenous Business from the Squamish Nation, offering catering and Vancouver's 1st Indigenous Food Truck.

"Owner and operator Chef Paul Natrall is a second generation Chef, his great grandfather Andrew Natrall was a Red Seal chef trained in the army. Natrall has been specializing in Indigenous Cuisine since 2010 and is very excited to share and showcase his fusion style dishes with the city of Vancouver.

"I take a lot of pride and joy in sharing Indigenous-fusion cuisine, using traditional ingredients from the Squamish First Nation — such as juniper berries, smoked wild salmon and meats — and traditional methods, such as clay and stone baking."

Massy Books

"At Massy Books we see every book as treasure waiting to be discovered. From rare, off-beat and out-of-print books to familiar titles and current-day best sellers, we scour the internet and places near and far knowing that the books we source have a perfect match in a reader or collector who is as passionate about books as we are! Massy Books is 100% Indigenous owned and operated and a member of the Stó:lō Business Association. We acknowledge we operate on the traditional, ancestral, unceded, and occupied territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations."

Cheekbone Beauty

"Cheekbone Beauty is an Indigenous-owned and founded, digitally-native, Canadian cosmetics company established in 2016. Based out of St. Catharines, Ontario, Cheekbone Beauty is known for creating high quality, cruelty-free beauty products including our signature SUSTAIN line of lipsticks and eye pencils, our Warrior Women liquid lipsticks, and a variety of other cosmetics all designed for low environmental impact and maximum wearability."

Spirit Bear Coffee Company

"Raven was sent by the creator of the universe, to redesign the earth after the first great ice age of cleansing. After Mother Earth added the foliage, Raven made all the new animals big and small. Then lastly, he made a Spirit Bear — a symbolic gift of peace and harmony to all creatures of the earth. Inspired by this story, Spirit Bear Coffee Company was born. Today, products from this quality coffee operation can be found in over 600 locations countrywide."

Ravens Brewing Company

Ravens Brewing is a family-owned brewery and distillery located in Abbotsford, BC. Paul and Jocelyn Sweeting have owned Ravens since the beginning in 2014. Proud of their heritage and community, Ravens Brewing is an Indigenous Corporation focused on developing partnerships with local suppliers and businesses in the development of beers, spirits and other similar products. In creating our beers and spirits, we strive to source as local as possible. Sourcing Abbotsford grown hops, fruit and herbs, and grains from Peace River, to use consistently in our beers and gins."



Resources and other reading:

Charity Village: 16 Resources to help Settlers Understand and Advance Indigenous Reconciliation

"It is the responsibility of every Canadian and every organization to work toward reconciliation. To move toward a better, more equitable future, it is imperative for Canadians to understand past and present injustices committed against Indigenous peoples and what needs to change."

YWCA: Two Years On: Demanding Action on the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

"June 3, 2021, marked the second anniversary since Reclaiming Power and Place, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, was released. The past two years have seen little action as Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people continue to experience disproportionately high rates of violence. The Calls for Justice have not changed. More must be done. "

YWCA: Statement on the Unmarked Graves found by Cowessess First Nation 

"We stand with Residential School survivors, individuals, families, colleagues and groups dedicated to demanding justice and transformative change. The YWCA calls on the federal government to immediately make meaningful progress toward implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action aimed at redressing the legacy of Residential Schools and advancing reconciliation in Canada. We also call on municipal, provincial and federal governments to implement the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Final Report."

YWCA: Statement on the Burial Site Found in Kamloops Residential School 

"This is just one shocking example of the damaging and lasting impacts of the Canadian Residential School system that was inflicted on Indigenous peoples. The legacies of this racist and genocidal system continue to be felt among individuals, families and communities. This tragedy also shines light on the importance of recognizing and respecting the power of oral history and community memory."

YWCA: Indigenous Mentorship Circles Foster Connection to Culture and Community

"This year marks the 12-year anniversary of the YWCA Circle of Sisters Indigenous Mentorship program, which provides opportunities for Indigenous girls and Two-spirit, non-binary and trans youth to connect to Indigenous community and culture with the help of Indigenous mentors and skilled facilitators. In response to the pandemic, program staff, volunteers and participants had to adapt quickly and creatively to the virtual format. With these changes, came new challenges and unexpected opportunities for connection."