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OPINION: A time for reflection

“It has a very deep impact on how you raise your children. We were never taught affection, we were never taught to say I love you..."

Âba wathtech.

Sept. 30 is the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, as well as Orange Shirt Day in Canada. The day was created by the federal government in order to open the door on discussions regarding the legacy left by the Residential School system, which left in its wake many mourning families whose children's lives were lost due to the neglect and abuse they faced in those institutions.

Recently the Town of Cochrane announced that they would be designating the day as a holiday for all Town staff members, in order to give them an opportunity to reflect on the purpose of the day.  

“What we are looking to achieve is to be able to honour the intent of the day by allowing staff the opportunity to go and recognize the importance of the day in a way that makes the most sense to them,” said Kristin Huybrecht, manager of intergovernmental relations and corporate communications with the Town of Cochrane. 

The day and its stated intent seems all the more important given the gruesome discoveries made in the past year, beginning with the remains of 215 children found in the unmarked graves near Kamloops, BC. 

On Aug. 30, members of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation met in Morley to honour the survivors of the Residential Schools and discuss the repercussions of the harmful practices that took place there, which still affect Indigenous communities across Canada to this day. 

“We need a lot of healing in our community. The social problems we see in our communities, the family violence, the drug addiction, alcohol addiction, all of those are because of Residential Schools, what happened to young people. We need to heal somehow, so that we can move forward without bitterness, so that we can learn to forgive what happened to us, because, personally, I know that forgiveness frees you from that bondage,” said eighty-year-old Tina Fox, a Survivor of the Residential School system. 

Fox discussed how the Residential Schools impacted the individuals who survived them, and how it affected the generations following.  

“It has a very deep impact on how you raise your children. We were never taught affection, we were never taught to say I love you, we were never told by anybody that we were loved. It was all, every day, degrading comments,” she said. “No matter what we did there was always something wrong with us, and that has deeply affected Residential School survivors.” 

Wildman said she feels as though the grave sites were discovered to cast aside that doubt and provide concrete proof of the terrible abuses that occurred in those places.   

“I believe that the grave sites were found for a reason – to tell our story, to tell Canada that we were never lying.” 

In the spirit of Truth, all non-Indigenous Canadians must acknowledge the legacy of the Residential Schools. 

The truth that terrible abuse was systematically perpetrated on Indigenous peoples; the truth that the abuses suffered in Residential Schools has shaped their communities in the decades following their closure; and the truth that those communities are still dealing with the traumas that occurred in the Residential School system. 

Acknowledging those truths is the only path toward Reconciliation. 

On Sept. 30, we all need to take a moment and reflect on the history of this country, and how we can move forward together to make all of our communities stronger.