London marking second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Tracy McLaughlin is pictured placing an orange flag into the grass outside of Ursuline College Chatham in honour of the 215 Indigenous children found outside of a residential school in B.C. Photo taken Monday, June 14. (Photo by Millar Hill)

Londoners will be able to honour the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in a variety of ways on Friday.

Walks, gatherings, and a commemorative mural unveiling are all planned and will include traditional singing, dancing, and addresses from a residential school survivor and city officials.

The day, selected to coincide with Orange Shirt Day, is meant to remember the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children lost to Canada’s residential school system, honour school survivors, their families, and communities and to publicly commemorate the history and legacy of the institutions.

“Acknowledging, learning and reflecting on the tragic legacy and ongoing impacts of residential schools is critical to guiding a compassionate journey towards reconciliation,” said London Mayor Ed Holder. “In the spirit of reconciliation, education and hope, on September 30 we encourage all Londoners to wear orange and honour those who survived residential schools and remember those who did not.”

Starting at 7 a.m., a youth-led Nibi walk will be held. It begins at the residential school monument on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and will end at Ivey Park in London. The walk is one of two events being hosted by the N’Amerind Friendship Centre.

The other event takes place at 2 p.m. at the centre’s building at 260 Colborne St. in London. Ojibwe educator and visual artist Mike Cywink will unveil seven murals he created with Indigenous youth artists and residential school survivors. The two-storey murals have been mounted on the exterior wall of the friendship centre. Cywink and his team spent the last two months creating the colourful artwork titled “We Are Still Here.” The unveiling will feature a jingle dress healing ceremony led by the Eagle Flight Singers, a smoke dance, and Delaware skindance. Residential school survivor Maryanne Laforme is among the speakers slated to speak.

For anyone hoping to educate themselves about the day and Indigenous culture, there will be information booths set up at the Gathering at the Green in Wortley Village. The initiative has been put together by the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Atlohsa Family Healing Services, Chippewa Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre. It runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature singing, drumming, dancing, prayer, education booths, and 30-minute language sessions.

The five groups behind the gathering ask those who plan to attend to do so with an “open heart and mind.”

In honour of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, City of London buildings and monuments have been illuminated in orange since Thursday. The orange lighting will remain until Sunday. An “Every Child Matters” flag has also been raised outside City Hall on Dufferin Avenue.

The federal government designated September 30 as a statutory holiday last year. As such, all federally regulated workplaces will be closed. The national holiday was created in response to the 80th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, which was issued in 2015.

Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and New Brunswick followed the federal government’s lead and declared Sept. 30 a provincial statutory holiday.

Ontario has not made the day a stat, with the Ford government previously stating September 30 would be recognized in a similar way to how the province marks Remembrance Day. This means the majority of people will have to go to work and children to school. All federally regulated workplaces will be closed. The City of London has also chosen to close its administrative offices, community centres, aquatic facilities, and Storybook Gardens for the day. There will be no curbside garbage or recycling collection.

Radio broadcasters across Canada including Blackburn Media, the owner of LondonNewsToday.ca, are once again joining together to amplify and elevate Indigenous voices with “A Day to Listen 2022” programming. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, radio stations, such as Classic Rock 98.1, will air stories from Indigenous leaders, residential school survivors, Elders, musicians, and teachers centred around the theme of “Messages of Hope”. The 12-hour broadcast will be hosted by JUNO Award-winning singer-songwriters William Prince and Celeigh Cardinal.

The government-funded 139 residential schools operated in Canada between the 1880s and 1996. During that time more than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken away from their families and placed into the school system. The purpose of the schools was to assimilate the children into Euro-Canadian society, stripping them of their culture. There were two residential schools in southwestern Ontario – the Mount Elgin school southwest of London and the Mohawk Institute near Brantford. Many students at the schools suffered physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse at the hands of staff. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has so far identified more than 4,100 children who died at the schools, most due to malnourishment or disease. However, the number of dead are believed to be much higher with hundreds of unmarked graves being found on the grounds of these former schools in 2021.

To learn more about First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples click here.