Truth and Reconciliation Day marks the first recognized national day of mourning for our nation, with flags at half-mast coast-to-coast for the better part of 2021, it appears the message is finally being received. Canada has a dark past we’ve only just begun to truly learn and understand. Our collective ignorance could no longer ignore the truth. The discovery of 215 children found in unmarked graves in Kamloops, BC was a devastating revelation and the harbinger of so many more.

Truth and Reconciliation 2021

On September 30th consider heading to our capital to take part in Remember Me: A National Day of Remembrance, a spirit walk to support survivors and embrace the sacredness of childhood. This event will also be live-streamed.

Truth and Reconciliation Day or Orange Shirt Day is a day to not only honour the warrior-children who did survive but the generations impacted by this egregious incarceration and the banishment of their culture, their language and their families. One day will never suffice, but a first step in hopefully forming a frame of a new Canada is now in focus.

Thoughtful reflection can take on many forms. Here are a few ways to lean in and listen up on Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Dan Levy has made this online Indigenous learning course through Coursera from the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta all but mandatory for his steady legion of followers. I’ve dug in and have been filling in the gaps left empty by my education and own personal ignorance and have learned and listened to the terrific lessons delivered by various Indigenous leaders and professors on Treaties, Colonialism, Residential Schools, Language, Art and Law and I’m only halfway through. Get started today.

If you live in Toronto, you’re lucky to have AGO Art and Classes in your backyard. My daughter Paige and I have taken side-by-side classes before, with art-based learning from Indigenous educators explaining sculptures, paintings and the stories behind them. The AGO of course is also home to world-class galleries including the J.S McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art, a devoted space featuring installations that “reflect the nation-to-nation treaty relationship that is the foundation of Canada. Drawing from stories about our origins and identities, the artists here invite us to engage with issues of land, water, transformation and sovereignty…”

Seek out Sonya’s recent list Indigenous Arts & Culture more for inspiration on what to see, do, and listen to.

Chef David Wolfman
Chef David Wolfman

First NationĀ Chef David Wolfman unleashed “Cooking with the Wolfman”, an Indigenous Fusion cookbook featuring stunning recipes that showcase Canada’s best ingredients meshed with time-honoured cooking techniques and a focus on seasonal foods like the Three Sisters Relish, a recipe that features companion planting, a technique that allows all three plants to thrive and grow in perfect unity.

Learning at Any Age

There are amazing literary books for every and any age. A perfect start is the original Orange Shirt Day tale, by Phyllis WebstadOrange Shirt Story” and “Phyllis’s  Orange Shirt” for younger children. YA books that will envelop adults include Cherie Dimaline’s chilling “The Marrow Thieves”, or pre-order her next bestseller “The Hunting by Stars” set to release October 19th. Current and rightfully politically charged, Jody Wilson-Raybould‘s takedown “Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power” offers an insightful look at her time in office with Trudeau.

Audible.ca sets the tone for Indigenous storytelling immersing listeners with an extensive catalogue of Indigenous authors. “Indian Horse”, by Richard Wagamese is particularly haunting, detailing a horrific removal from his family, main character Saul is faced with a series of sexual, mental and physical abuses while incapacitated at a northern Ontario residential school.

Orange Shirts have become the signal for years to honour this dark history, but with despicable sub-humans stealing not only the money but Indigenous artists’ designs too. Ensure you purchase your shirt from reputable sources or you’re only setting things back further. Consider putting your money into something of value, like reputable charities that can further support survivors. Learn more about Legacy of Hope here in Ontario or a full list of coast-to-coast charities here- https://www.canadahelps.org/en/explore/charities/category/indigenous-peoples/

This is by no means an extensive list, but rather a collaborative effort to kick off shared learning. Please leave us a comment below on how you are honouring this day so we can keep the momentum moving towards an inclusive Canada.