Friday is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation across Canada and there is a full week of events planned locally to commemorate it.
And while the events are important, one of the people behind organizing local aspects of the week urges people to participate, but stressed the importance of understanding the meaning behind the week.
“September 30 is definitely a day of mourning and reflection, not a celebration," said Paige Russell, cultural resource co-ordinator at the Barrie Native Friendship Centre (BNFC).
"It's a day of mourning for Indigenous families and, for our allies it's a day of advocacy and education,” said Russell. “It is a heavy, emotional week for a lot of people and can be full of a lot of trauma. It takes a lot of courage to tell our stories during this time.”
Russell believes there is more willingness from the general public to want to learn about First Nation culture and the history that has led to this week.
“I do think it is very important for the sentiment to be carried out for the rest of the year and not just on these nationally recognized days,” said Russell.
Friday, Sept. 30 is Orange Shirt Day (the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), and is named in memory of the experience of Phyllis Webstad.
Webstad was six years old in 1973 when she wore her bright orange shirt to her first day of Mission school in B.C. Upon arriving at the school, she was stripped of her orange shirt and it was never returned.
Russell says she is thankful that many local schools are taking the week to put the emphasis on Indigenous education back in the classrooms.
“It's crucial for our children and our youth to be learning and having conversations that will enlighten them about past wrongdoings and how to correct them,” said Russell. “It's a major part of the healing needed. I know my former school of Eastview Secondary never had any classes about First Nations and now there are, which I am very happy to hear.”
The local events this week follow a cooperative effort between the Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin primary care Team of the Barrie Area Native Advisory Circle, the BNFC, Red Quills, the Barrie Public Library and the City of Barrie; the goal is to provide plenty of opportunity for the community to learn about importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The week’s events will culminate with Friday’s Sacred Fire and Sharing Circle at the Spirit Catcher. With activities happening there throughout the day, it will also see the Every Child Matters walk start at 5 p.m. (meet up at 4:45 p.m.), which will follow along the Centennial Beach trail and back.
There will be a flag raising at City Hall on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. where the public is encouraged to join.
A full list of events is available here.