Truth and Reconciliation Week and National Truth and Reconciliation Day are opportunities to come together and reflect together on the atrocities and injustices that happened in Canada’s boarding school system and to commemorate the children who attended those schools and never returned home .
Also known as Orange Shirt Day, the national holiday aims to deepen understanding of the trauma affecting the families and communities of survivors, recognize the enduring legacy of the boarding school system, and advocate for acts of decolonization and reconciliation.
Working for reconciliation is a shared responsibility. As a place of higher learning, the U of G has an obligation to play a role in education and in investigating the truth of history while working towards reconciliation with the indigenous people, Inuit and Métis.
The university is aware of this immense responsibility and is guided by the strategy for indigenous initiatives entitled “Bi-Naagwad | It Comes Into View” addresses his institutional priorities of indigenization and decolonization.
“Bi-naagwad’s package of recommendations provides us with a framework for conversations about how to meaningfully advance reconciliation, foster mutual and respectful relationships with indigenous people, Inuit and Métis, and actively respond to the truths shared by boarding school survivors, their families and communities throughout the year,” said Cara Wehkamp, Associate Vice President (Indigenous Initiatives).
The engagement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, cultures and knowledge forms has grown across the U of G campus, but much remains to be done. Reconciliation is an active process and the University recognizes the need to develop policies, programs and supports to ensure that indigenous peoples have opportunities for leadership and thriving.
As part of its commitment to addressing discrimination and systemic inequality in education and research faced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis, the U of G has introduced more grants, fellowships and research opportunities for Indigenous students.
“As a community dedicated to higher education, the University of Guelph recognizes our responsibility to address the legacy of the boarding school system and to confront discrimination against Indigenous Peoples,” said U of G President Dr. Charlotte Yates. “At U of G, we are committed to reconciliation through policies that make higher education inclusive for First Nations, Inuit and Métis and respectful of indigenous knowledge, cultures and languages.”
Work for reconciliation
Public commemoration of the history and legacy of boarding schools remains an essential part of the reconciliation process, Yates said. The U of G will fly the survivors’ flag in front of the University Center and Johnston Hall will be illuminated in orange September 26-30 to honor boarding school survivors and affected communities.
The university will remain open on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation to allow members of the U of G community to celebrate the day together.
On September 30th, the flags will be lowered to half-mast. A fellowship meeting entitled “Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation” will be held at Branion Plaza from 10:00 am to 10:30 am
Community members who are unable to attend campus and community events are encouraged to take a moment for personal reflection during their day. Guidance for the U of G community on hosting reconciliation events can be found on the Truth and Reconciliation page of the university website.
The Indigenous Student Center is hosting a Sharing Circle for First Nations, Inuit and Métis students on September 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Indigenous students can also stop by the Indigenous Student Center on September 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 620 Gordonstr.
Related events at U of G include:
- A virtual tour of a former boarding school
The Woodland Cultural Center is offering a Zoom virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School on September 26 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Viewers can learn about the institution’s 140-year history and listen to interviews by five survivors of the school.
- Walk & Talk: Curator’s tour through Qautamaat
On September 28, 6:30-8:30pm, the Art Gallery of Guelph hosts a curatorial tour of the Qautamaat exhibition with curator Taqralik Partridge and author Emily Henderson. The tour will highlight the stories, ideas and practices associated with ‘Inuit everyday life’, influencing the work of more than 80 artists and makers on display.
- Wear orange on September 30th
Awareness of the legacy of Residential school system, wear an orange shirt or other item.
- Explore the curated collection of the U of G Library, Truth and Reconciliation Day 2022: Commemoration of children, with works by Aboriginal, Inuit and Métis authors.
- Respond to calls to action
Students, staff and other members of the U of G community can also help work towards reconciliation by responding to calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA Peoples Calls for Justice Canada’s enduring colonial legacy.