Tag Archives: indigenous

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: A chance for reflection and reconciliation

Indigenous people in Canada continue to face intergenerational trauma. The clean drinking water crisis on reserves is still unresolved, Indigenous peoples are being killed by police at an alarming rate, and earlier this year, it was confirmed that there are unmarked graves containing the remains of thousands of children at former residential school sites across Canada.

Not enough progress has been made towards ending anti-Indigenous racism, or relationship-building between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada.

The official designation of September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, unanimously supported by the House of Commons in May, is a necessary and encouraging step forward. The ongoing commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools is a vital part of reconciliation.

A brief history of September 30 

The movement for a new national holiday began in 2013 when Phyllis Webstad shared a heartbreaking story that launched the annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30.

Forty years earlier, when Webstad was just six years old, her grandmother took her to get a new outfit for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, just outside Williams Lake, B.C. Webstad handpicked a bright orange, lace-front shirt. But when she arrived at school wearing it, she was stripped of her clothing and never saw the shirt again.

“The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter. How no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,” said Webstad in a post on the Orange Shirt Day website. “All of us little children were crying, and no one cared.”

Orange Shirt Day creates meaningful discussion about the harm of residential schools and the legacy they have left behind. The date was chosen because it is the time of year children were taken from their homes and put into residential schools.

In September 2020, a new bill was tabled proposing that Orange Shirt Day become a national statutory holiday. The legislation was similar to the previous proposal, which died in the Senate when the 2019 federal election was called. In May 2021, the day after 215 children’s bodies were discovered in Kamloops, all parties agreed to fast-track the bill and it passed in the House of Commons, and then in the Senate, by unanimous consent.

An opportunity to show your support 

Now, Orange Shirt Day is also the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a new statutory holiday for employees in federally regulated public and private sectors.

PSAC members who receive it as a paid holiday are encouraged to use this opportunity to take real action to support Indigenous peoples.

Here are some examples of how you can honour survivors, their families, and communities: 

  • Wear an orange shirt purchased from an Indigenous company in honour of Phyllis Webstad and all former residential school survivors.
  • Donate $30 on September 30 to a local or national Indigenous charity or not-for-profit working to improve the lives of Indigenous families and communities.
  • Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action to learn more about the 80 calls to action that are, as yet, unanswered.
  • Refer to our list of resources for recommendations on reports and podcasts to help you learn and reflect.
  • Participate in an event in your area.

In honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, PSAC will make monetary donations to the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society and the Indian Residential School Survivors Society — two Indigenous organizations that are working to advance reconciliation and provide support to Indigenous families and communities.

The federal government established the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday in response to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. It’s one of only 14 calls to action that have been fulfilled.  

There is still so much more work to do on the path to reconciliation. We encourage you to reach out to your newly elected member of Parliament and urge them to lobby the federal government to commit to a clear timeline for developing an action plan, providing funding for, and fulfilling all 94 Calls to Action.

The star quilt graphic was designed by Georgina Metzler, an Anishinaabe artist and graphic designer who lives in Calgary, Alberta. Learn more about the artist and the meaning behind the work.

Special thank you to L’nu/Mi’Kmaq high school principal Paula Reynolds-Hall for sharing ideas on how to take action on September 30. 

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

PSAC grieves with Indigenous communities as more unmarked graves are discovered in Saskatchewan


PSAC joins residential school survivors, Indigenous communities and all Canadians in grieving the disturbing discovery of as many as 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

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National Indigenous Peoples Day: a turning point for Canada

image of an Indigenous dancer wearing a red dress

June 21 is an occasion to celebrate Indigenous history, culture, and diversity, as well as the many contributions of Indigenous peoples to Canada. For non-Indigenous Canadians, and for organizations such as our union, it is also an opportunity to reflect on our history and role in the ongoing process of colonization in Canada. Importantly, it is a time to reaffirm that we will keep working in solidarity with Indigenous struggles for justice.

The recent heartwrenching discovery on school grounds of the remains of 215 children who attended the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory is a turning point for Canada. For too long, non-Indigenous Canadians have been happy to turn a blind eye to the structural injustices and violence faced by Indigenous peoples.

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s oft-repeated claim that “no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous peoples,” his government has failed to prioritize progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, released in December 2015. More than five years later, only 12 calls have been completed, and 20 have seen no progress at all. And despite Trudeau’s pledge to end all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021, dozens of Indigenous communities still lack the basic human right of safe drinking water.

PSAC once again calls on the government to urgently fulfill its commitments to Indigenous peoples.

Our common survival depends on settler colonial culture moving away from valuing profit over people, allowing corporations to pollute the air and water and profiting off the suffering of our elders. In making this shift, we can learn from Indigenous worldviews, perspectives and knowledge and in turn lead with empathy and compassion.

Politicians at all levels of government need to know that non-Indigenous Canadians are in solidarity with Indigenous peoples. Decolonization and reconciliation are right for Canada. They are right because Indigenous rights are human rights.

Indigenous peoples need the voices of all Canadians to join with them to call for the justice and fairness that is so long overdue. Speak to everyone in your circle and help dispel harmful myths about Indigenous peoples. Educate yourself, your family, friends and your community about the intergenerational trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples. Be compassionate, learn and reflect. And then take action.

Webinar: Intersectionality and allyship with Indigenous peoples

PSAC invites you to our June 23 webinar on how we can work as allies with Indigenous Peoples. The panel will discuss how allies can best support decolonization and sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.