In June 2021, the federal government passed legislation (Bill C-5) to mark September 30 of each year as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day on which we are called to reflect upon the tragic and ongoing legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a direct response to Call to Action 80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released in 2015, which called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish a statutory holiday “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.”
Since 2013, September 30 has also been observed as Orange Shirt Day – a movement to recognize and raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada. Orange Shirt Day recalls the experience of residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation who, in 1973, had her orange shirt stripped away from her upon arrival at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Williams Lake, BC. Forty years later, on September 30, 2013, Phyllis spoke publicly about her experience as a residential school survivor for the very first time. On this day, wearing an orange shirt is a recognition of the enduring legacy of violence and erasure that residential schools perpetuated against Indigenous peoples and commemorates the loss of countless innocent Indigenous children and families.
Each of us has a duty to honour those that were lost, the survivors, their families, and their communities, and acknowledge the trauma of residential schools that continues to affect the Indigenous Peoples of this land. We must reflect upon the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and take collective action in this ongoing process of reconciliation.
Lerners LLP is committed to the ongoing process of truth and reconciliation. Together, we must do our part to advance the Calls to Action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and specifically those pertaining to the legal profession, including Call to Action 27 which calls “upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations.”
This is the way forward.
Lerners LLP/The Diversity and Inclusion Committee