Kingston readies to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023

The 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as displayed in Confederation Park on September 30, 2022. Photo via City of Kingston on Facebook.

As those across Canada mark the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, many here in Kingston will be doing the same, with a number of different events planned for the day.

Taking place on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, the day is meant to attempt to respond to Call 80 of the 94 Calls to Action created by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. National Day for Truth and Reconciliation serves as a date to honour the survivors of the residential school system, their families and communities, and “to ensure public commemoration of the history and legacy of remains a vital component of the reconciliation process,” according to the City of Kingston.

The City noted there are multiple community-led events taking place here in Kingston in honour of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and also pointed out that the date coincides with Orange Shirt Day. An Indigenous-led campaign, Orange Shirt Day 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.

It was residential school survivor 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.”

To visibly mark the day, Kingston City Hall will be illuminated in orange on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, the City shared.

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.

“Indigenous-led events and ceremonies are planned around the community to create space for Indigenous Peoples to connect and honour the day. 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,” the City of Kingston said in a press release on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023.

Local events to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Confederation Park 

  • Indigenous community members will hold a Sacred Fire from sunrise to sunset on Sept. 30.
  • Stop in front of the fountain and reflect on the legacy of residential schools at a temporary installation sharing the 94 Calls to Action: Sept. 26 to Oct. 2. City staff will be on site on Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a reflective program, inviting participants to reflect and share how you can commit to learn and take action in support of reconciliation.
  • City Hall will be illuminated orange on Sept. 30 from, sunset to sunrise.
  • City Hall will raise the Every Child Matters flag on Sept. 30.

Kingston Native Centre and Language Nest

Reconciliation with our Plant Relations will take place on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Belle Island. Contact Kingston Native Centre and Language Nest for more information [email protected].

Kingston Community Health Centres

Sacred Fire at Street Health (115 Barrack St.) – Monday, Oct. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kingston Community Health Centres (263 Weller Ave.)  – Sept. 30, all are welcome: 

  • 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Storytime with kids and Circle with adults
  • 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. — Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations and readings
  • 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. — Lunch
  • 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. — Keynote speaker
  • 2 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. — Medicine Teachings
  • 2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. TRC Jeopardy / Sacred Fire
  • 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Drumming

Self-Care Day – Friday, Oct. 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. For details, contact Mandy by email: [email protected].

‘Bones of Crows,’ screening of the award-winning 2023 film on Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at The Screening Room (120 Princess Street).

“Removed from their family home and forced into Canada’s residential school system, Cree musical prodigy Aline and her siblings are plunged into a struggle for survival. Bones of Crows is Aline’s journey from child to matriarch, a moving multi-generational epic of resilience, survival and the pursuit of justice.”

This event is free for Indigenous community members and $12 for settlers.

There will be a Traditional Opening before the film and an optional debrief conversation for those who are interested. Get your tickets online.

Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area

True North Aid’s fourth Annual Reconciliation Walk will take place on Friday, Sept 29. and Saturday, Sept. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area. Find more information on the Facebook event page.

Queen’s University

Queen’s is hosting an Indigenous Art Show, along with a series of events that began on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.

This painting by Creations by Can is one of over two dozen works of art on display as part of the 2023 Indigenous Art Display at Queen’s University’s Stauffer Library. Photo by Dylan Chenier/Kingstonist.

Online events and broadcasts 

In partnership with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR), APTN is broadcasting a national live event, Remembering the Children, on Parliament Hill. The commemoration is supported by Canadian Heritage and seeks to honour residential school Survivors, pay tribute to the children who never made it home, and deliver a safe and nurturing environment for reconciliation and healing. 

Also, Cogeco’s YourTV Kingston, as well as YourTV outlets across the province, will be featuring programming dedicated to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“In honour of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Cogeco’s YourTV is proud to announce its commitment to fostering understanding and promoting dialogue by airing local indigenous programming,” said Kristen Curry, Communications and Public Relations Manager for Cogeco Ontario.

“The scheduled programming will highlight the contributions of indigenous individuals, communities, and organizations, providing a platform for their voices to be heard.”

The programming will touch on residential schools and the impact they had on the indigenous population, the significance of Orange Shirt Day, as well as Anishinaabe Day and the importance of preserving Indigenous language, Cogeco shared. This will include programming that was created in partnership with Nipissing First Nations and Curve Lake First Nations.

Cogeco subscribers can view the special programming on their local YourTV channel. Find the local schedule at www.yourtv.tv.

Learning more

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/Kingstonist.

The City of Kingston also offered the following details on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and their Calls to Action, as well as where to find further information.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) took place between 2008 and 2015. It was an opportunity for survivors of residential schools to come forward and tell their stories. These histories were recorded and compiled, ensuring the legacy of what the survivors experienced would not be forgotten.

Survivor stories represented the truth portion of the Commission. However, reconciliation is a much longer, much more involved process. It requires action at the individual, government and collective levels. To help guide reconciliation and to set clear goals, the Commission identified 94 Calls to Action covering a wide range of Canadian society. As of July 26, 2022, only 13 Calls to Action have been completed, 19 are not started and another 64 remain in various states of progress. Learn more at CBC Beyond 94.

Learning Resources and Reports 

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