The new National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is not meant to be seen as a holiday but as a day for reflection, says Moosonee’s mayor.
In June, legislation was passed to make Sept. 30, which is already recognized as Orange Shirt Day, a federal statutory holiday. It was created in response to one of the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Federal agencies and most Crown corporations will be closed for it.
While Ontario has announced the day won't be a provincial holiday, some municipalities are marking it.
Offices for the Town of Moosonee and City of Timmins will be closed Sept. 30.
The Town of Moosonee office will be closed to observe the day. Mayor Wayne Taipale said 85 per cent of the town’s population is Indigenous, many of whom were affected by residential schools.
“I don’t think it should be looked at as a holiday. It should be looked at as respecting the people that have attended the residential schools,” he said. “It’s a very sad day for everybody. It’s one way to show our respects.”
Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon echoed Taipale's comments, saying Sept. 30 should be used to reflect on what happened to Indigenous children in residential schools, in the child welfare system and during the Sixties Scoop.
“It’s not a one-day thing. To me, it’s a reminder of what happened to us, what they did to us,” he said.
He said was one of the fortunate people who never attended a residential school. Hearing about how “inhumanely” Indigenous children were treated in the system breaks his heart and angers him.
Since the remains of Indigenous children were found in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., the grand chief has been thinking a lot about reconciliation and how to move forward.
"If we want to reconcile, we need to make the wrong right," he said. "We cannot go back to change what happened. But what can we do today to never let it happen again?"
Solomon said it’s time to stop using “fancy words” about reconciliation and for the governments and the general public to start taking action.
“There’s no sustenance of what’s being said. A lot of good words are used by not only the government but the political parties and when it comes to action, there’s very little of it,” he said. “We made it clear as First Nations people what (reconciliation) means to us.”
The successes and resilience of First Nations people across the country should also be acknowledged, the grand chief said.
Solomon added Mushkegowuk Council is planning to provide a bus to take residential school survivors to Ottawa on Sept. 30.
In Timmins, along with city hall being closed, residential garbage and recycling collection that falls on Thursday, Sept. 30, will be picked up on Friday, Oct. 1.
The Deloro Landfill and German Township Landfill sites will be closed on Sept. 30.
Bus schedules will be impacted, too. Timmins Transit will be providing more information soon.
A 24-hour residential school crisis line offering support to former students and their families is available at 1-866-925-4419.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com