Kingston prepares to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day

Kingston City Hall awash in orange light on May 31, 2021, with flags lowered to half-mast in memory of the thousands of children who were sent to residential schools, those who never returned, and those families whose lives were changed forever as a result. Photo via SkEyeStream.

On the path towards truth and reconciliation, as guided by the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, many groups and individuals in the Kingston area are planning meaningful personal and public ways to mark the annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – and to do so in a city and region with a strong historical connection to the oppressive systems that have made this day necessary.

On Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, the City of Kingston, as well as Kingston Police and Kingston Community Health Centres, announced the events that have been planned for Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day is also known as Orange Shirt Day, which acknowledges the ongoing trauma inflicted on Indigenous people by the residential and day school systems, and recognizes and remembers the many Indigenous children who never returned home, the survivors of the brutal programs, and their families.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a federal and civic holiday, and some city services are affected. Read our coverage of what is open and closed in the Kingston area on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Additionally, independent events have been organized by the Good Ally Project through True North Aid, which take place on Friday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 1, as well as more intensive retreat exploring who we are as individuals, families, and those who share the land —based on Patty Krawec’s newly released book, Becoming Kin, the retreat looks more directly at how “we are all kin,” what it means to be “good kin,” and how we deal with “unwanted kin,” and takes place October 21 to 23, 2022.

14.2 km walk and associated events

Kingston Police and KCHC announced that their organizations will take part in a 14.2 kilometre walk on Friday, with a number of different events and ceremonies accompanying it.

At 7:00 a.m., a Sacred Fire will be lit. The Sacred Fire will be tended by an Indigenous Fire Keeper and burn until sundown.

At 8:15 a.m. the ‘Every Child Matters’ flag will be raised at Kingston Police Headquarters at 705 Division Street. Shortly after, both sworn and civilian Kingston Police members will observe a moment of silence, offering support to their Indigenous colleagues and reflecting upon the history of systemic inequities against Indigenous people. Events will then move to KCHC, 263 Weller Avenue, where opening ceremonies will take place.

“All are welcome to attend the ceremonies and Sacred Fire, as well as to join in the walk, anywhere along the way,” Kingston Police emphasized.

At 9:00 a.m., a smudge ceremony and opening ceremony will be led by Pytor Hodgson of Three Things Consulting and Logan Jackson, a staff member with KCHC. Remarks from KCHC’s CEO Mike Bell, Director of Community Services Wendy Vuyk, Kingston Police Chief Antje McNeely, and Inspector Matt Funnell will follow.

Then those joining Kingston Police, KCHC, Youth Diversion, and Victim Services (the latter two organizations are arms of the former two) will “continue along their path to complete a 14.2 km walking loop, visiting the city’s main events throughout the day, and ending back at KCHC,” Kingston Police said in a press release.

“This event is being held to recognize and raise awareness of [the] National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. Participants will be wearing orange shirts to honour the victims of residential schools. The funds raised by Kingston Police from the sale of these shirts will be donated to the Residential School Survivor Fund on behalf of Kingston Police, Youth Diversion and Victim Services.”

Anyone who would like to donate additional funds can visit the Indian Residential School Survivors Society website, police said. Cash donations are also welcome, as officers will have marked buckets on hand during the route, but participants do not need to donate to join the walk.

Why 14.2 kilometres?

Kingston Police said they have decided to focus on the number 142 because there were 142 residential schools throughout the regions of what we now call Canada, according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

According to Police Chief Antje McNeely, “Officers from the CORE (Community Oriented Response and Engagement) Unit felt a community walk with a powerful significance associated to the number 142 was an inclusive and visible way to show support and a commitment to listen, learn, and reflect on this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.”

Route:

  • Start at Kingston Police headquarters at 8:15 a.m.
  • Arrive at KCHC ETA 9:00 a.m. (Opening Ceremony)
  • KCHC to K&P Trail/Belle Park Totem Pole/Integrated Care Hub, ETA 11:00 a.m.
  • K&P Trail to Confederation Park, ETA 12:00 p.m.
  • Confederation Park to City Park, ETA 12:30 p.m.
  • City Park to Street Health, ETA 1:00 p.m.
  • Street Health to KCHC, end at Kingston Police Headquarters 4:00 p.m.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022 in the City of Kingston

In honouring the intent behind the date, the City of Kingston declared September 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a civic holiday in 2021.

Passers by stop to reflect on the tiny pairs of shoes lined up on the steps of Kingston City Hall in the summer of 2021 in memory of the children whose bodies were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. Photo by Cris Vilela.

This year, the City reiterated the intention of the date: “The day responds to Call 80 of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”

“September 30 is a day to honour survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” the City of Kingston said in a press release on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

The City pointed to the importance of residential school survivor stories – like that of Phyllis Webstad, whose story inspired the observance of Orange Shirt Day:

The Orange Shirt Day movement began in 2013, when residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her story at a Saint Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion event held in British Columbia. September 30, the annual date of the event, signifies the time of year when Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools.

When she was just six years old in 1973, Phyllis Webstad lived with her grandmother on the Dog Creek Reserve in Manitoba. In her biography, Webstad explained, “We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!”

However, when she got to the Mission, she was stripped of everything, including her bright orange shirt. “I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying, and no one cared.”

“[Orange Shirt Day] is a celebration of resilience and an affirmation that every child matters,” the City of Kingston stated, adding that City Hall will be illuminated in orange on Friday, and the ‘Every Child Matters’ flag will also be raised.

Events around the city

“Indigenous-led events and ceremonies are planned around the community to create space for Indigenous peoples to connect and honour the day,” the City of Kingston release said.

“Non-Indigenous community members are invited to listen, learn, and reflect on the history of Canada’s residential school system and the lived experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.”

City Park

Working in collaboration, the Sexual Assault Centre of Kingston, Kingston Interval House, Odemin Collective, Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest, and the Elizabeth Fry Society have events planned to raise awareness about residential schools and missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S), including on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

  • Orange Shirt Day Sacred Fire: Sept. 30, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Sisters in Spirit Day Sacred Fire: Oct. 4, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Confederation Park

Indigenous community members will hold a Sacred Fire in Confederation Park from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, the City of Kingston announced. A temporary installation on the 94 Calls to Action for Truth and Reconciliation will be in place at the Confederation Park water fountain from Monday, Sept. 26 to Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, allowing people to “stop in front of the fountain and reflect on the legacy of residential schools.”

Online events and broadcasts

The City pointed to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)’s 35 hours of special programming for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“In partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), APTN is producing a one-hour live broadcast and national commemorative gathering called Remembering the Children: National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which will take place at LeBreton Flats Park in Ottawa. The one-of-a-kind event will be led by children and residential school survivors and will air simultaneously across all APTN channels.”

Learning resources and reports

The City of Kingston also offered the following list of resources and learning information as suggestions for local residents:

Reconiliation events through True North Aid’s Good Ally Project

Image via Truth North Aid and the Good Ally Project.

A division of True North Aid, the Good Ally Program (GAP) aims to “draw attention to, and live out at a grassroots level, the Truth and Reconciliation’s Committee’s calls to action.” GAP hosts projects and events aimed at accessible — but not over-simplified or censored — efforts towards meaningful reconciliation.

Reconciliation Walk and Settler Discussion Series at Little Cataraqui Conservation Area

Hosted by True North Aid and GAP, the third annual Reconciliation Walk will take place on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at the Little Cataraqui Conservation Area, located at 1641 Perth Road in Glenburnie. The self-guided walk can be joined any time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. both days, and participants walk through a timeline of residential school history in Canada, taking in the important stories of residential school survivors along the way.

“Wear your orange shirt and follow a timeline of residential school history along a wooded path and reflect upon the historical and current tensions Canada continues to face,” GAP shared.

“Join True North aid staff at a fire (weather permitting) after your walk and engage in meaningful conversation with True North Aid staff or simply sit and read the accounts of residential school survivors.”

New to the events this year, the hosts are offering a Settler Discussion Series, which takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday only. Facilitated by True North Aid staff, this two-hour session is geared toward settlers who are beginning a journey of reconciliation, and to those who would like to further their journey with factual information and a solid argument as to why our country finds itself in this present situation. Topics covered include settler privilege, land, residential schools, and allyship. Pre-registration is required. Those wanting to participate can pre-register here.

True North Aid and GAP are also encouraging participants to sign True North Aid’s book of condolences online, which will be bound into book-form and delivered to an elder at James Smith Cree Nation at a later date.

The Reconciliation Walk and Settler Discussion Series will take place rain or shine.

There is no cost to attend. For more info contact Katie at [email protected].

Becoming Kin retreat

True North Aid will also be hosting a retreat October 21 to 23 called “Becoming Kin” at Queen’s University Biological Research Centre north of Kingston in the heart of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere — one of the most well-preserved areas showcasing the diverse natural ecology of Canada in the area.

Based upon Indigenous author, advocate, and speaker Patty Krawec’s newly released Book, Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future, the retreat will also host Alexis Shotwell, author and professor at Carlton University.

“Attendees will explore the relationship and responsibilities we have to ourselves, our families, and to one another. Through meaningful dialogue and thoughtful activity, we will consider the questions: Who claims me? Can we reimagine the relationships we have inherited? How do we take up our responsibilities to each other?” GAP said.

For more info and to RSVP, please visit https://sites.google.com/truenorthaid.ca/becomingkinretreat

Photo by Rod Long.
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One thought on “Kingston prepares to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Orange Shirt Day

  • September 28, 2022 at 8:16 am
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    Thanks for covering Orange Shirt Day time so thoroughly regarding the many events planned.

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