National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada Date in the current year: September 30, 2024

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation) was added to Canada’s list of statutory holidays for federal employees in 2021. It was created to honor the victims of the Canadian Indian residential school system.

Residential schools (écoles résidentielles) for Indigenous peoples were created by the Canadian government to assimilate Indigenous children into the dominant culture by isolating them from their native culture, language, and religion.

The first attempts to establish boarding school for Indigenous children were made by French Catholic missionaries in New France in the late 17th century. However, Indigenous communities were reluctant to leave their children at these schools for extended periods, so missionaries eventually decided to halt their educational programs and redirect their limited resources elsewhere.

Boarding schools for Indigenous children reopened in the early 19th century with the support from Canadian government, the Catholic Church, and other Christian denominations such as Anglicans and Methodists. In 1876, nine years after the creation of the Dominion of Canada, the Canadian Parliament passed the Indian Act, which, among other things, obliged the government to provide Indigenous children with education and assimilate them into the dominant culture.

In 1894, the Act was amended to make the attendance of residential schools compulsory for children aged between 7 and 16 years. Many students in these schools were subjected to forced conversion, sickness, arduous forced labor, and severe physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Thousands of children died of infectious diseases and malnutrition and were buried in unmarked graves, which are still being discovered to this day.

Compulsory attendance of residential schools ended in 1948, but government officials in some provinces coerced Indigenous parents into leaving their children in the residential school system. It took several decades to close down residential schools for good. The last federally-funded residential school closed in 1997.

To document the history and lasting impact of residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC; Commission de vérité et réconciliation du Canada) was established in 2008. Seven years later, it released an executive summary report of its findings along with 94 “calls to action”. One of these calls to action was to establish a National Day for Truth a Reconciliation as a statutory holiday.

In 2013, residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad launched the Orange Shirt Day campaign to raise awareness of the lasting impact of residential schools on Indigenous students and their families. The date of the event, September 30, was chosen because Indigenous children were taken from their homes to attend residential schools in September.

The government of Canada elevated Orange Shirt Day to a statutory holiday in 2021. The governments of British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories also added the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to their lists of provincial/territorial statutory holidays.

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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, holidays in Canada, statutory holidays, federal holidays, residential school system