On the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, people gathered in communities across the province to commemorate and recognize Canada's legacy of residential schools.
Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, Ian Lafrenière, attended an event organized by the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-utenam at the site of the former residential school of Mani-utenam, Que., near Sept-Îles.
Dozens of people wearing orange shirts were in attendance, as the day unfolded with speeches and prayers from members of the community.
Addressing the crowd, Lafrenière said Quebecers must take the time to learn about what happened in residential schools and to get informed about the impact on Indigenous people to this day.
"We can't forget Joyce Echaquan who died in horrible circumstances," he said Thursday morning. "We can't forget the survivors, the victims of the residential schools."
"This week we have a duty to remember."
Reconciliation is not just a political issue and has to happen at all levels, said Mike McKenzie, chief of the Innu nation of Uashat mak Mani-utenam.
"The first step to achieving reconciliation is the truth, a truth that needs to be acknowledged and taught," he said.
Innu Nation finds pride in its resilience
Naomi Fontaine, who was one of the moderators of the event in Uashat mak Mani-utenam, said that Innu people can feel proud that they are still standing after despite colonizers' attempts to erase their language and culture.
"Today is also a day to celebrate the resilience of our culture," she said.
Sept-Îles Mayor Réjean Porlier said that facing the truth may be uncomfortable, but it's necessary to dismantling the racism that still exists against Indigenous people today.
"We don't always want to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we did the right thing," he said.
More events are planned in the afternoon to commemorate the day, and Quebec's legislature, the National Assembly, will be lit in orange on Thursday evening.
Children at a school in Wendake marked the day by wearing orange and creating a banner with their handprints. Students at many schools across the province are taking part in activities today to learn about the significance of the day.
In Montreal, people are honouring the children found in unmarked graves at residential school sites across the country by attending a commemorative ceremony and march that started at Place du Canada at 1 p.m. and ends at Place des Arts.
Organized by the Native Women's Shelter and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, the event will feature Indigenous leaders, rights defenders and youth from Quebec and Labrador communities.
Nakuset, director of the Native Women's Shelter, told CBC that while the day is being billed by the federal government as an opportunity for reflection, she wants to see more concrete action than just awareness-raising.
"How does reflection actually help us? It doesn't help us for you to reflect. What would help us is if you show up, if you are moved by what you hear today and if that pushes you into doing some action. That's what we want," she said.
Marchers are encouraged to wear orange and bring drums to the ceremony.