2022 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

Today is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. The day allows us to reflect on the legacy of residential schools, learn about the history, and understand the impacts of the schools on Survivors, their families, and communities. We can also use the day to resolve to never repeat the errors of the past but to work to build a better future for all.

Let me share a few facts:

1. Between 1831 and 1998, at least 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children were forcibly removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools

2. One hundred and thirty-two federally supported schools were in every province and territory except Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

3. In those schools, the students had to abandon their languages, cultures, spiritualities, traditions, and identities.

4. Most schools were operated as “joint ventures” with Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian or United Churches.

5. The last school closed in 1996

6. Many students experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in those schools, and thousands never came home.

7. Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions, and cultures and to assimilate them into the dominant culture.

8. Wednesday, June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, made a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada. He said, “Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country…. Therefore, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this Chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to Aboriginal peoples for Canada’s role in the Indian Residential Schools system. To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the Government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.”

9. Different churches played a role in running the residential schools. Many churches have apologised for their roles. I cite a few examples. In 1994, the Presbyterian Church offered a confession to Canada’s First Nations people. While in 1993, The Anglican Church apologised to Canada’s First Nations people. In 1991, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate apologised to Canada’s First Nations people. In 2022, His Holiness Pope Francis offered an apology to Survivors, their families, and their communities here in Canada

10. In 2021, the Parliament voted unanimously to establish the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more, honour the Survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities, and remember the many children who never returned home.

11. Canada has updated Canada’s Oath of Citizenship to recognize First Nations, Inuit, and Métis rights

I wonder how the residential schools became so evil.

I wonder about the mindset that made people violate other people’s human rights.

I wonder why professionals, leaders, teachers, Ministers of the Gospel, and many others allowed Children to be taken away from their families and subjected to the worst human condition.

I wonder how the churches got involved in the evil in these schools. How can Christians who are called to love, be instruments of mercy and be shining lights run schools where Indigenous children were assaulted, beaten, and some even died? How did priests, nuns, or other leaders participate, enable, or ignore children’s physical, sexual, and psychological abuse? The same children that Jesus loved to play with.

How did teachers trained to help children become better adults choose to do evil to the same children?

These professionals are supposed to be nice people. But they chose to do the wrong things. As professionals of this generation, are we making decisions based on similar mindsets? Are we repeating the same things today?

Enough of the domination, abuse of power, wickedness, and discrimination. I believe that we can all end the cycle of evil and build a great world.

According to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the objectives of these residential schools were based on the assumption that “Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child”. “To date, people disrespect other people because of their complexion, their accent, their looks etc. We must stop that. All humans need to be recognised, respected, and protected.

As we listen to survivors, learn about their experiences, and participate in different events, let us learn, reflect, and commit to making a difference. We all have a role to play on the journey toward reconciliation.


I am passionate about excellence in leadership, Human Development, Education and Nation building. Tweets : @yomitheprof

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Abayomi Fawehinmi

I am passionate about excellence in leadership, Human Development, Education and Nation building. Tweets : @yomitheprof