National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Tens of Thousands Mark the Third Annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Indigenous Peoples, Canadians and Quebeckers held rallies, marches, cultural events and vigils on September 30 to mark the third annual National Truth and Reconciliation Day across the country. Programs were held in many schools. The day honoured the victims and survivors of the Indian Residential School System, into which more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were abducted by the Canadian colonial state. These children were sent to Church-run schools far away from their families in an effort to destroy the cultures of Indigenous Peoples, and extinguish them as peoples in a brutal colonizing project. National Truth and Reconciliation Day also honoured the victims of the Sixties Scoop in which Indigenous children were taken away from their families by child welfare agencies and placed for adoption or put in institutions.

National Truth and Reconciliation Day 2023 was an expression of the unity between the Indigenous Peoples, Canadians and Quebeckers to not only recognize the wrongdoing of the Canadian state in the past, but to end the ongoing state violence against Indigenous Peoples today. It was also an expression of political unity to work together to ensure justice for the more than 6,000 children who died in residential schools, according to the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) Report. At the same time it reflects the determination to ensure that the survivors of the Residential School System and their families are properly compensated and supported to make up for this horrific holocaust by holding the Canadian governments and state institutions to account.

Despite the pious proclamations by Prime Minister Trudeau for the occasion that the "Government of Canada will be there every step of the way to provide them [the survivors of Residential Schools] with the resources they need to fully uncover the truth of what happened at residential schools, honour the children who did not return, and support communities as they continue on their healing journeys," the reality is that very little action has been taken by the Trudeau Liberal government to realize the TRC's 94 Calls to Action. 

In fact the Trudeau Liberals have continued the racist colonial violence against Indigenous Peoples such as in the case of the state-organized paramilitary attacks against the Wet'suwet'en land defenders affirming their hereditary rights to their territory, the ongoing refusal to take action to stop the genocide against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people and the underfunding of social programs for Indigenous communities.

As the September 29 statement of the Native Women's Association of Canada noted, "We had great hope, when the TRC released its final report, that the process of reconciliation would begin in earnest. The Prime Minister promised to meet all 94 Calls to Action. But, here we are, eight years later, and only a handful of those Calls have been fulfilled. The work to enact them appears to have stalled. And some of the simplest have been left untouched." The organization has called for the government and politicians to act now to implement all 94 calls.

National Truth and Reconciliation Day this year is an expression of the determination of the Indigenous Peoples united with the people of Canada and Quebec to step up the fight for the rights of Indigenous Peoples so that Canada's racist colonial history and legacy can be ended.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa

The third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was commemorated September 30 on Parliament Hill. The orange t-shirts, which have become the emblem of the children who died or disappeared in the residential schools, were prevalent on the Hill and on the streets of Ottawa.

Many of the speakers pointed out that the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was the deed of the survivors themselves. Elder Doreen Bernard said: "We honour the missing children who never came home and the children who have been found and those we are still searching for. We honour the courage of survivors who led the fight for justice, to speak our truth, to tell Canada and the world we survived genocide. We honour the survivors and all our descendants who struggle with the impacts of residential schools today."

Stephanie Scott of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation thanked the Indigenous, Inuit and Metis survivors. "Without your strength and courage there would not have been an apology, nor a Truth and Reconciliation Commission nor a National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Survivors insisted the truth of residential schools must never be forgotten. Today is to honour all the survivors who are with us and those children who died in those institutions. We must respect all the survivors and amplify their voice. The residential school system was intended to destroy Indigenous, Metis and Inuit culture, our languages, but they did not succeed. For those who never made it home, their spirits call out to us to be remembered and to be honoured. We have a powerful symbol of those truths. 

"The National Student Memorial Register carries the names of 4,140 children identified through the records of their families. Our research is ongoing. We still don't have all the records. The Truth and Reconciliation Centre continues to work with churches, government and others so we can finally access the 23 million records that were not released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We know more children will be found and their names will be added," she said.

The National Student Memorial Register was created to forever remember and honour the children who never returned home from residential schools. The registry represents the first time the names of children that never returned from the schools are commemorated and made available on a national basis in Canada.

In a solemn act of remembrance, a red memorial banner bearing the names of the children was carried to the front of the gathering and shoes were placed on the stage to represent the children whose stories have yet to be told but who are honoured in spirit.













Stony Plain




Port Alberni

Campbell River


(Photos: TML, J. Brake, Y. Durocher, St. Benedict School, Island Public, J. Donkersgoed, atlohsa, G. Pirie, M. Pahl, Dan Jet Fans, iiamjamieox, J. Bowes, K. Kay, P. Nichol, The Raven, W. Grant, Coast Meridian, D.R. Ross, K. Maximick, Claire from YVR)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 9 - October 2023

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