This week marks Truth and Reconciliation Week, a time to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools and commit to playing a part in advancing reconciliation.
Orange Shirt Day, on Sept. 30, marks the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day serves as a valuable opportunity to listen to residential school survivors speak their truth, to prioritize understanding the ongoing intergenerational impacts and to continue conversations about Every Child Matters.
It remains the responsibility of all Canadians to acknowledge the past and to work toward a better Canada for all peoples.
The University of Guelph continues to commit to educating and examining the truth of history while working toward reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The University’s priorities of indigenization and decolonization, and to making higher education inclusive for all, are guided by our Indigenous Initiatives Strategy, Bi-Naagwad | It Comes Into View.
“During Truth and Reconciliation Week and Orange Shirt Day, we stand with survivors, their families and communities in solidarity and mourning,” said Dr. Cara Wehkamp, assistant vice-president (Indigenous Initiatives).
“We must nurture environments where the truth can be shared to build understanding, trust and healing. Embracing our commitments, we must take action individually and collectively to advance reconciliation on campus and in society.”
Engaging in reconciliation
Public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
University community members are encouraged to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by participating in events, reflecting on our past and committing to change.
Take part in reflection events
U of G raises the Survivors’ Flag in front of the University Centre and at Champions Corner at the start of Truth and Reconciliation Week. The flags will be lowered on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Saturday, Sept. 30, and orange lights will illuminate Johnston Hall each evening the week prior.
Each day of Truth and Reconciliation Week, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) will hold a series of virtual lunch-and-learn sessions from a range of speakers that will provide audience members the opportunity to engage in further conversations. Registration is required.
Take a virtual walk through Guelph-Humber’s Meditation Labyrinth. This immersive art experience was created by the Early Childhood Studies (ECS) program to represent the thousands of survivors and children lost to residential schools.
On Friday, Sept. 29, at 9:40 a.m., there will be a Walk for Reconciliation from the Art Gallery of Guelph to Branion Plaza. The walk will begin at the Maada’oonidiwag sculpture, then cross Johnston Green, down Winegard Walk to Branion Plaza.
At 10 a.m., a community gathering called Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation will then take place in Branion Plaza to hear the experiences of survivors and reflect on reconciliation. Community members unable to join are encouraged to take a moment for personal reflection during their day.
Further events can be found on the Indigenous Initiatives website.
To promote awareness of the legacy of the residential school system, University community members are encouraged to wear an orange shirt or other item on Friday, Sept. 29.
The University Bookstore has collaborated with Indigenous Initiatives and the Indigenous Student Centre to bring a unique orange shirt to campus designed by Indigenous graphic designer, illustrator and beadwork artist Kaitlin Gallant.
From each shirt, $5 will be donated to the Survivor Secretariat, an organization that supports efforts to uncover and share the truth about what happened at the Mohawk Institute, a former residential school.
Explore the U of G library’s curated collection
The McLaughlin Library has curated a collection of titles that tell the stories of residential school survivors, called National Truth & Reconciliation Week 2023: Honouring Survivors. The collection includes memoirs, fiction, poetry, reports, historical non-fiction and more.
Many more titles that centre Indigenous writers and stories can be found in the library’s Exploring Indigenous Narratives and Worldviews collections.
Respond to Calls to Action
Students, staff and other members of the U of G community can also help work toward reconciliation by responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQIA Peoples Calls for Justice to help address Canada’s ongoing colonial legacy.