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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Surrey events

There will be several events taking place across the Lower Mainland around Sept. 30
Hundreds attended a Truth and Reconciliation Day event in Holland Park in 2022. (File Photo: Anna Burns)

Saturday, Sept. 30 marks the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

This day aims to provide Canadians with the opportunity to recognize and observe the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools.

It is also Orange Shirt Day, which was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s story. In 1973, when she was six years old, Webstad was sent to St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School outside Williams Lake. On her first day, she wore an orange shirt that was a gift from her grandmother before school staff took it from her.

In April 2013, Webstad had been mulling over ideas for a talk she was to give at St. Joseph’s when she remembered the orange shirt. The tale soon went viral, and in the ensuing decade she popularized orange shirts as a symbol of reconciliation in Canada, inspired Orange Shirt Day or National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and created the slogan “Every Child Matters.”

There will be a number of events taking place across the Lower Mainland around Sept. 30 in recognition of the day.

The Surrey Urban Indigenous leadership committee is hosting a Skookum Surrey event on Friday, Sept. 29 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Holland Park (13428 Old Yale Rd). This year’s event will feature drumming, story sharing, tea bannock, and a time to gather and reflect as a community to honour survivors and children who did not make it home. Attendees are encouraged to wear an orange shirt.

At the 2022 event in Holland Park, Kevin Kelly, from Kwantlen First Nation in Fort Langley, said, “We have to respect the ones that never made it home, but also those that are here.” Kelly’s wife, Marilyn Gabriel, is a hereditary chief.

Michael Kelly-Gabriel, Kelly’s son, said they do not like to use the word survivors when referring to those who made it out of residential schools.

“It is a triggering word,” he said. “We want to honour warriors and call them warriors ‘cause they fought to keep our culture alive.”

The Surrey Urban Indigenous leadership committee is a coalition of organizations that have come together to advocate for the more than 16,000 Indigenous people living in Surrey. The coalition is devoted to making Surrey “a fantastic place to raise an Indigenous family.”

Meanwhile, Surrey Libraries Fleetwood branch (15996 84 Ave.) planned to hold a ‘94 Calls to Action Reading Circle’ on Tuesday, Sept. 26. Participants had the chance to share in the collective reading of the 94 calls to Action. These actions to the Canadian government were recommended when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report in 2015.

Also, on Thursday, Oct. 5 from 6 to 8 p.m., join Surrey Local Immigration Partnership at Museum of Surrey for “Stories from the Land,” an opportunity to hear Indigenous stories from south of the Fraser River and share a meal.

In February, the provincial government introduced legislation that would mark Sept. 30 and, by extension, Orange Shirt Day, a provincial statutory holiday.

– With files from Wolf Depner and Tyler Harper

Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I started with Black Press Media in the fall of 2022 as a multimedia journalist after finishing my practicum at the Surrey Now-Leader.
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