London-area events mark day for truth and reconciliation

As Canada marks its third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, public events are planned in London and nearby to honour survivors and children who never returned from the nation's Indigenous residential schools.

Saturday's federal holiday also coincides with orange shirt day, when people are encouraged to wear orange to commemorate children who survived and those who died in the dozens of residential schools operated by churches and the federal government across Canada.

More than 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the schools, including two major ones in Southwestern Ontario, the Mount Elgin Industrial School in Muncey, southwest of London, and the Mohawk Institute Residential School near Brantford.

Taken from their homes and families, the children were ripped away from their cultures and languages and many endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The grim legacy was examined by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose final report in 2015 made dozens of recommendations to deal with the fallout, including creating a special day to honour survivors and their families.

Among the events planned in the London region Friday and Saturday:

What: Speaker series: Beyond National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

About: Held by Atlohsa Family Healing Services, it's a chance to join panelists in a discussion of what it means to reconcile, build relationships and make space for collective healing, reclamation and reparation.

Where: Wampum Learning Lodge, 1137 Western Rd.

When: Friday, 10 a.m. to noon.

* * *

What: Commemorative gathering

About: Atlohsa and the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation are holding a joint event to discuss the lasting impact of residential schools and raise awareness of that legacy.

Where: Western Fair Agriplex, 845 Florence St.

When: Saturday, noon to 3:30 p.m.

* * *

What: Sunrise ceremony and Nibi walk and youth relay

About: The N'Amerind Friendship Centre will hold a sunrise ceremony at 6:30 a.m., for those who can't attend one at the Mount Elgin Residential School monument, followed by the Nibi walk and relay that begins at 9 a.m. at the Oneida Nation of the Thames. The walk is expected to reach the Nshwaasnangong Child Care and Family Centre, at 449 Hill St. in London, about noon, and from there goes on to the N'Amerind centre. Speakers at the end include Mayor Josh Morgan and residential school survivor Mary Anne La Forme.

Where: N'Amerind Friendship Centre, 260 Colborne St.

When: Saturday, starting at 6:30 a.m.

* * *

What: Flag-raising ceremony and proclamation reading in honour of National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Where: City hall, 545 Talbot St.

When: Saturday, noon

* * *

What: Commemorative ribbon event

About: The city's public library, in solidarity with the Six Nations public library, invites people to tie ribbons in front of the library to honour the memory of children who never made it home from residential schools. You can bring your own ribbons, or pick them up inside the library.

Where: St. Thomas public library, 153 Curtis St.

When: Saturday

* * *

What: March for Truth and Reconciliation

About: Organized by the Indigenous solidarity and awareness network, the event features Indigenous vendors, presentations and a march from Yvonne Mott memorial park to the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre.

Where: Yvonne Mott memorial park

When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with march starting at 6 p.m.

* * *

Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press