“There is no Reconciliation without Truth”

The Trinity College School community joined with others across the country in taking part in a day of mourning on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, September 30th. This national day of reflection fulfills one of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to recognize the tragic history and continued impacts of Canada’s residential school system. It is a time for remembrance, education and action. In honour of this day, the School’s flag flew at half-mast.

The dark reality of the residential school system was made clear in recent months with the identification of unmarked graves at the site of former residential schools. Between the 1870s and the 1990s, it is estimated that 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their families and forced into one of more than 130 residential schools. The legacy of these schools continues to affect Indigenous communities today, including the 80,000 living residential school survivors.

September 30th also marks “Orange Shirt Day” which was created in 2013 as a way to honour children who died at or survived residential schools. Orange was selected as it was the colour of the shirt worn by young Phyllis Jack Webstad when she was sent to St. Joseph’s residential school; the new shirt, a gift of her grandmother, was taken from her and never returned. This was just one example of the role residential schools played in stripping children of their Indigenous traditions, clothing and language; further, it is estimated that thousands of residential school children died, sometimes without their families ever knowing their fates. On Thursday, all students and staff were asked to wear orange or don an orange ribbon created for the event, as a sign of respect and remembrance.

In the Junior School, students and staff undertook a full day of programming, both curricular and co-curricular, to learn about the Indigenous people of Canada, beginning with a special assembly. Messages of hope and reconciliation were written on painted rocks and placed in front of Boulden House, followed by a moment of silent reflection.

In the Senior School, Thursday began with a virtual assembly to establish the focus for the day. Afternoon programming included grade-based activities on Truth and Reconciliation:

Grade 9 students heard from Stephanie Pangowish, an Anishinaabekwe woman from Wiikwemkoong on Manitoulin Island, on the theme of resilience. She is an active community member, stand-up comedian, Northern Style Women's Traditional dancer, educator, back-up singer and avid beader.

Guest speaker Shaniece Mohawk, from the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation, shared her knowledge of the history and importance of lacrosse, and the relationship of sports and reconciliation, to our Grade 10 students. She has worked with the Iroquois Nationals World Lacrosse teams since 2015 and is currently the general manager for the 2022 women’s teams.

Lisa Innes, a member of Attawapiskat First Nation, is an educator specializing in Indigenous education. She spoke with Grade 11 students about the history of residential school trauma and its lingering impacts. As well, the group watched a short documentary, hearing directly from a residential school survivor.

Grade 12 students were privileged to view the new documentary film, For Love, which was also having its premier in Vancouver on this day. This viewing was made possible by alumnus Lindsay Eberts ’98, an executive producer on the film. For Love deals with the residential schools legacy, but also the harmful effects of Canada’s foster care program on Indigenous children.

After the sessions, students and staff had an opportunity to debrief. For example, Grade 12 students shared their thoughts on a Padlet, with many expressing both sadness and shock at what they had seen, but also tremendous respect for the resilience of Indigenous people in the face of what they have endured, and a newfound appreciation of the importance of self-determination and the preservation of Indigenous cultures. Because many of the day’s themes were difficult and emotional, guidance staff and our chaplain were available for students needing further support after the sessions.

As was reinforced today, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is just the start of the process of understanding and acknowledging the truth of Canada’s history of colonialism, and taking action towards reconciliation. This process will continue at TCS through our curriculum, conversations and programming.

If you would like to learn more, a set of resources on Truth and Reconciliation is available by clicking here.