- Chief Wilton Littlechild
“Education got us into this mess and education will get us out of it.”
- The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair
September 30 marks only the second National Day for Truth & Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. As you know, this day recognizes the legacy of residential schools and honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities. For us in BC, many have acknowledged September 30 for several years, as Phyllis Webstad’s experiences at the St. Joseph Mission near Williams Lake are the impetus for The Orange Shirt Story.
Sadly, in the year since the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, many more potential graves of children have been identified at former residential school sites across the country. While important steps have been taken – such as the recent historical apology by the Pope this past summer for the role of some members of the Catholic Church in abuses at church-run schools – reconciliation is a work in progress.
Many Canadians were unaware of the residential schools, and have then been horrified and surprised to learn about the abuses at those schools. However, for decades, many Indigenous and non-Indigenous truth-tellers have attempted to shine a light on these atrocities and their impacts. Indigenous communities have long known and sought justice for their children and family members.
In 1922, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce released the book The Story of a National Crime. As Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Indian Affairs, Dr. Bryce raised the alarm about the deplorable conditions and health impacts of residential schools, and for years tried unsuccessfully to have these addressed by the Canadian government. One hundred years on, many Canadians are only now learning and recognizing the truth. We are experiencing an historical awakening.
As so eloquently stated by the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as for so many of society’s ills, education will lead to a greater understanding of our history as a way to address past wrongs. And, as Chief Wilton Littlechild stated in his address to Pope Francis, the words that are shared will help to guide us on the pathway ahead to “truth, healing, reconciliation, and hope.” As educators, we all have an awesome responsibility.
The September 23 Deputy Minister’s Bulletin offered a series of links to help support you and your staff with this on-going and important work.
Educational Resources for Truth and Reconciliation Week: The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has created a series of educational videos for teachers to use during Truth and Reconciliation Week (September 26–30, 2022). To access these videos and other related resources, please visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s website. District staff or students can also visit the Orange Shirt Day Society website to read Phyllis Webstad’s story on the origin of Orange Shirt Day (September 30, 2022), or to purchase orange shirts.
I am looking forward to the start of my Chapter visits next week, as I will be touring SD51 (Boundary), SD8 (Kootenay Lake), and SD20 (Kootenay-Columbia). I fully anticipate that through these and future Chapter visits, I will experience the diversity of our BC schools, and hear directly from members about their achievements and challenges, about the activities in their districts, and about how the Association can support members in the vital work you all do. To paraphrase 2018-2020 BCPVPA President David DeRosa, to fully understand what is happening out there, “you need to breathe their air.” I know that the conversations that I have with members are valuable, rich, and one of the most important aspects of my position as President.
If you would like me to visit your Chapter so that I can breathe your air, please email Sharon North.
Have a great weekend,