Thursday, Sept. 30 will mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — an annual commemoration honouring the children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential school system.
The creation of the new federal statutory holiday was approved by Parliament days after the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation confirmed the discovery of roughly 200 potential burial sites, likely of children, on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
It coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which began in 2013 to honour those who attended residential schools.
Thursday is not a provincial holiday in B.C., but is for federal government services and in federally regulated industries such as banking. Other organizations and businesses may choose to close.
Several communities across the province are holding gatherings and ceremonies on Thursday.
Orange Shirt Day: Walk and Ceremony
9 a.m. PT
The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre (VAFC) and the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre (VACPC) are gathering with elders and their families on Thursday for a walk and ceremony at Grandview Park.
Attendees are asked to wear orange and meet at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre at 9 a.m. PT.
Orange Shirt Day: Drum ceremony
1:30 p.m. PT
The Nisga'a Ts'amiks Vancouver Society is gathering at Trout Lake to honour the children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, among many other children who died because of residential schools.
"We will pray and drum for the healing of our children, residential school survivors and their families," said the society, which is a non-profit community organization working to enhance the lives of Nisga'a citizens in the area.
The gathering begins at 1:30 p.m. PT.
University of British Columbia
11:45 a.m. PT
At the University of British Columbia, an intergenerational march is being held on the Vancouver campus.
Participants are invited to meet outside the UBC Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at 11:45 a.m. PT for bannock and tea before the march begins at noon.
The City of Vancouver is on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Drum for the Children
2:15 p.m. PT
Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc has issued a call to anybody, anywhere, to drum and sing in unison at 2:15 p.m. PT in honour of the children who never made it home from residential schools.
Participants are invited to learn the Secwepemc Honour Song which is available to learn here.
The City of Kamloops is located on Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) territory, situated within the unceded ancestral lands of the Secwépemc Nation.
Gathering with Phyllis Webstad
Fraser River Heritage Park
11 a.m. PT
Sept. 30 has been marked in past years as Orange Shirt Day, which originally started in 2013. The day honours residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad, who was six years old when her orange shirt was taken away from her on her first day at St. Joseph's Indian Residential School.
Webstad, of the Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation, will be a guest and speaker at a gathering at Fraser River Heritage Park.
The event begins at 11 a.m. PT. Attendees are asked to wear orange and bring their own chairs. Drums are also welcomed.
Xe xe Smun' eem - Victoria Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters Ceremony
The community is invited to join in ceremony in Centennial Square on Thursday. The annual event, organized by residential school survivor Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray, features Indigenous performers and speakers. The Orange Shirt Day flag will be raised during the ceremony before a minute of silence to honour children who died at residential schools. The flag will then be lowered to half-mast.
Xe xe Smun' eem means "Sacred Children" in the Cowichan or Quw utsun language.
National Reconciliation Day Ride
Begins and ends at Centennial Square
Victoria Orange Shirt Day and Capital Bikes are hosting a bike ride on Thursday, with stops at locations of significance to the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ people. Organizers will share stories about each spot's history.
The City of Victoria is located on the traditional lands of the lək̓ʷəŋən People, known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations.
Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park
2:15 p.m. PT
An outdoor gathering is being held in Prince George, B.C., on Thursday, though it has been scaled back in response to high rates of COVID-19 transmission in the Northern Health region.
Drumming, singing and speeches to honour survivors and children who went missing from Canada's residential school system had been planned, but organizer Wesley Mitchell said they felt they shouldn't encourage large public gatherings.
Mitchell said vendors have been cancelled for the event in Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park, but there will be an informal drum circle and walk.
The City of Prince George is situated on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
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.