Dear BCTF members,
This Thursday, September 30 is a historic day—the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
We hold a great deal of responsibility as educators for teaching the truth and modelling reconciliation for our students. As the Honourable Murray Sinclair has said: “Education is the key to reconciliation. Education got us into this mess, and education will get us out of it.”
To my colleagues who identify as First Nations, Métis, and Inuit
I recognize that this is an incredibly heavy time for all of you. Please know that you can access culturally appropriate support through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I send love and strength to you and your families, and give you my personal commitment that I will spend my day on September 30 listening, learning, and reflecting on what actions I can take every single day to advance reconciliation and to decolonize our Federation.
To my non-Indigenous colleagues
September 30 is a day for all of us to listen, to learn, and to reflect. And while I hope that you will be wearing orange as a visible show of support, I implore you to do much more with your day.
This day is about deepening our collective commitment to learning the truth and incorporating reconciliation into every aspect of our daily lives, both personally and professionally, all year round.
In order to do this work in a good way, we must listen and learn with humility and respect. I invite all teachers to revisit the BCTF’s Aboriginal Lens—a guide for those who work in education and are committed to taking up the Calls to Action on Education as stipulated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This framework is designed to help educators challenge the current, established systems of belief that support Eurocentric practices that have silenced other ways of knowing and being.
I raise my hands in gratitude to BCTF staff Gail Stromquist and Chris Stewart, and members of the BCTF Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee—Jelana Bighorn, Brenda Celesta, Brian Coleman, Missy Haynes, Allison Hotti, Stephanie Muldoe, Brandon Peters, Claire Shannon-Akiwenzie, Susan Trabant, and Rae Figursky—for their contributions to the following collection of recommended resources and actions to advance reconciliation.
A reminder that the BCTF has an extensive collection of Aboriginal Education teaching resources on our website, including Gladys We Never Knew, Project of Heart, and much more.
ACTIONS TO TAKE ON SEPTEMBER 30 (AND BEYOND)
1. Attend an event
Show your support by standing with, and listening to, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples at a commemorative event on September 30. The BC Federation of Labour has compiled a list of Orange Shirt Day/Truth and Reconciliation events taking place online and in-person throughout BC on September 30.
2. Read and reflect on the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
It has been six years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its Final Report and 94 Calls to Action. A child and family-oriented version of the Calls to Action, developed by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, can be found here.
The Yellowhead Institute publishes an annual accountability report on the Calls to Action. Their latest report was published in December 2020, five years after the TRC report came out.
Organize a TRC Report reading group with your colleagues, friends, or family. A fantastic free resource to help guide your reading and discussions can be found here.
3. Listen to Indigenous podcasts and interviews
CBC Unreserved podcast host Rosanna Deerchild recently interviewed Murray Sinclair, former Senator and Lead Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Listen to their conversation about reconciliation—how far we’ve come, how far we have left to go and who is responsible for taking the journey—here.
In another CBC podcast called Telling Our Twisted Histories, host Kaniehti:io Horn brings us together to decolonize our minds—one word, one concept, one story at a time. These episodes average 20 minutes each and deconstruct and decolonize words and concepts including: reserve, family names, reconciliation, discovery, and school.
The UBC Library has also compiled a list of recommended Indigenous podcasts, which you can find here.
4. Watch an Indigenous film
- Colonization Road: In Colonization Road, comedian Ryan McMahon travels Ontario’s colonization roads, pathways established by early European settlers to break ground into First Nations communities and establish their own settlements. Ryan discovers more about their impact on First Nations and settlers, and the long and winding road of reconciliation in Canada.
- Kuper Island—Residential School Survivors Documentary: It was the Kuper Island Residential School, and it stood on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia. They called it Alcatraz. For almost a century, hundreds of Coast Salish children were sent to Kuper Island, where they were forbidden from speaking their native language, forced to deny their cultural heritage, and often faced physical and sexual abuse. Some died trying to escape on logs across the water. Many more died later, trying to escape their memories. Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh and Peter C. Campbell join survivors of the school, 20 years after its closure, as they begin to break the silence and embark on an extraordinary healing journey.
- National Film Board—32 short and full-length films here.
- “We Were Children”—available on Amazon Prime or for rent on NFB website.
- “Indian Horse”—available on CBC Gem or for rent through various streaming services.
- “Inendi” (meaning “she is absent” in Ojibwe)—available on YouTube.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly…
5. KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING: Speak to others around you about what you have learned, and about your personal commitment to advancing reconciliation
Engage friends, family members, and neighbours in conversations around the collective responsibility of non-Indigenous Canadians to undertake this work every single day.
Please join me in committing to doing the hard work of listening, learning, and working to advance reconciliation—not only on September 30, but every single day, at home, at school, and in our communities.