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Posted: September 30, 2021

Remembering the children who didn’t come home

Letter to the Editor

Today, we remember the children who didn’t come home. As we mark Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, our country – and each of us as individuals – continue to grapple with the horrific findings made in the last several months at former Indian Residential Schools in British Columbia and across Canada. By wearing orange shirts, we are acknowledging the truth of the residential school system, and honour survivors, families and communities.

Orange Shirt Day would not exist without the strength and courage of the campaign’s founder, Phyllis Webstad. Her story of residential school survival, as well as those shared by Vancouver Island advocate Eddy Charlie and so many others, sparked a national conversation on the true history of this country.

Although the truths of the residential school system were well-documented through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in May, we were horrified and heartbroken to learn of the findings at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The work of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc requires all of us to confront the wrongs of the past, to fully comprehend our true history and to work together now to create a better future. We acknowledge the continued leadership, courage and commitment of all First Nations throughout British Columbia who are doing the difficult work of honouring these missing children.

Along with two recently appointed First Nations liaisons, the Province will continue to assist caretaker communities as they lead investigations at former Indian Residential Schools and Indian Hospitals in B.C. Our government is actively supporting First Nations as they develop and implement their own strategies to facilitate truth telling, healing and justice. Survivors, intergenerational survivors and communities will remain at the centre of this work.

This year, Sept. 30 is also a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The new federal statutory day responds to one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action for a national day to honour those affected by residential schools.

We will consult with Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities over the coming months on the best and most respectful ways to commemorate Sept. 30 here in B.C. We will also bring the business community, employers and labour groups into the conversation, so that they can participate in the planning in meaningful ways. While we continue this engagement with the aim of formally recognizing this important day in B.C. in the future, this year, public service workplaces will be observing the statutory day of remembrance and reflection.

Public commemoration of our shared history is just one of many steps we can take in our work to advance reconciliation. We must also face the truth of the harms perpetrated by colonial policies and the residential school system. As government, we will work to deconstruct the colonial systems that are still in place and continue to harm Indigenous peoples. We owe this to the future generations.

We encourage every British Columbian to wear an orange shirt to proclaim that every child matters, and that we are all committed to working together with Indigenous peoples to create a better future for all of our children, for the province and for the entire country.

Premier John Horgan and

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation


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