Islanders reflect on residential school legacy at Truth and Reconciliation Day ceremony

·2 min read
Members of the public joined Indigenous leaders for two minutes of silence Thursday at noon AT in Charlottetown. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Members of the public joined Indigenous leaders for two minutes of silence Thursday at noon AT in Charlottetown. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

Islanders came to show their support for the Indigenous community at a flag-lowering ceremony in Charlottetown marking the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Members of the public joined Indigenous community leaders and Premier Dennis King for two minutes of silence by the provincial government office Thursday at noon AT.

Events commemorating the date were held throughout Canada, honouring the Indigenous children who died while attending residential schools, as well as those who survived.

"This day represents the culmination of a long and hard-fought battle led by survivors, families and communities to be heard and believed following decades of indifference and denial," P.E.I. Sen. Brian Francis said in a speech.

Francis is the first senator of Mi'kmaw descent from P.E.I. He's the sponsor of the bill that led to Sept. 30 becoming a federal statutory holiday.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

The premier said he was overwhelmed by the amount of people who came to the ceremony.

"I think it's indicative of how Islanders feel about this horrible history that we have and their genuine interest in trying to learn from it and move forward in a positive way," he said. "I didn't expect this size of a crowd to be here today."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Mary Busch, a Dene woman from Cold Lake, Alta., was at the ceremony with her family. She said the new holiday is an acknowledgement of the trauma Indigenous people have gone through.

"It's very healing actually, to see everyone come together and to be recognized and have our culture recognized from the atrocities that have happened to the people in our culture," she said.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Busch attended one of the last residential schools in the 1990s. Her grandparents had also been students.

Francis said commemorating Sept. 30 is just the beginning of a long process toward reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

"I'd like to see this journey continue," he said. "It's not a one-day event, I always called it a marathon, not a sprint. But we all have to work at it together and it's going to be tough work at times, but we have lots of allies to help us get through."

Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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