Canada celebrated the country’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30. The day, which honors the lost children and survivors of Indigenous schools, comes after more than 1,000 unmarked graves were discovered at former schools this year.
Governor General Mary May Simon, the first aboriginal person to serve as the representative in Canada of its head of state, Queen Elizabeth, said, “The legacy of colonization has had devastating repercussions for indigenous peoples, including the loss of language, culture and heritage.”
The country’s residential school system, which ran from 1831 to 1996, was operated by the government and Christian churches and aimed to assimilate Indigenous children. The result was the removal of more than 150,000 Indigenous children from their families who were then placed in schools where they were subjected to abuse and malnutrition.
The discovery of mass unmarked graves at these schools this past year caused multiple cities to cancel Canada Day celebrations as they mourned the legacies of colonial violence. Currently, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is recognized as a federal holiday, but Indigenous leaders are urging individual provinces to adopt the holiday as well.