September 30 is an annual national day to reflect, learn, and honour survivors of residential schools and their families and communities. It is also a day to recognize that despite tremendous adversity, many Indigenous peoples have retained their laws, language, governance practices and culture and are healing their communities.

The Truth and Reconciliation Report called Residential schools "a systematic, government-sponsored attempt to destroy Aboriginal cultures and languages and to assimilate Aboriginal peoples so that they no longer existed as distinct peoples." Removing children from their families and forcing them to attend residential schools was Canadian government policy in what has been recognized as attempted cultural genocide.

Between the 1870s and 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous, Métis and Inuit children attended residential schools—seven generations of Indigenous people over 150 years.

Official records show that 4,100 of those children never returned home. Since the 215 unmarked graves were found in Kamloops in 2021, over 6,000 more graves have been identified at residential school sites nationwide, with more anticipated to be uncovered.

Here are a few ways to learn more and honour survivors:

  • Learn more about Phyllis Webstad's story that began Orange Shirt Day.
  • Attend local events on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.
  • Find out what Indigenous Territory you live and work on, and get information on how to create a territorial acknowledgement. Learn how to pronounce the First Nations' names and their languages.
  • Purchase an orange shirt from the Victoria Orange Shirt Day or other local organizations where the proceeds support Indigenous artists and communities.
  • Support local Indigenous business owners by utilizing the South Island Indigenous Business Directory.
  • Donate to Indigenous organizations.
  • Start or continue your personal truth and reconciliation journey by doing your research.

Here are some links to get you started on your personal truth and reconciliation journey:

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation & the TRC Calls to Action

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) was created as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) mandate. The TRC was charged to listen to Survivors, their families, communities, and others affected by the residential school system and educate Canadians about their experiences. The resulting collection of statements, documents and other materials now forms the sacred heart of the NCTR.

The TRC was a national investigation into a Canadian government policy that, for over 125 years, removed Indigenous children from their families and sent them to residential schools where traumatic experiences of abuse and forced assimilation were the norm rather than the exception.

The policy stemmed from a mindset that viewed Indigenous culture and ways of knowing as inferior to European civilization. In 2015, after years of collecting stories from survivors and those affected by the legacy, the TRC completed its final report, issuing Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action—94 calls to action aimed at all sectors of Canadian society.

Of the 94 calls to action identified in the report, five actions call specifically to municipal (local/regional) government. When considering the broad scope of services the CRD offers, many of the 94 calls to action are within the ability of the CRD to act.

43. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

57. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

75. We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried. This is to include the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children.

77. We call upon provincial, territorial, municipal, and community archives to work collaboratively with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to identify and collect copies of all records relevant to the history and legacy of the residential school system, and to provide these to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

The provincial government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) into law in November 2019.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) establishes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) as the Province's framework for reconciliation, as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action.

The Declaration Act aims to create a path forward that respects the human rights of Indigenous Peoples while introducing better transparency and predictability in the work we do together.

There are four critical areas of the legislation:

  • Section 3 mandates the government to align provincial laws with the UN Declaration.
  • Section 4 requires the Province to develop and implement an action plan, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, to meet the objectives of the UN Declaration.
  • Section 5 requires regular reporting to the legislature to monitor progress on the alignment of laws and implementation of the action plan, including tabling annual reports by June 30 of each year.
  • Sections 6 and 7 allow for flexibility for the Province to enter into agreements with a broader range of Indigenous governments and to exercise statutory decision-making authority together.

View guidance on the Province's approach to Indigenous Governing Bodies in the Declaration Act on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

CRD Statement of Reconciliation

The CRD's boundaries span the Traditional Territories of over 20 First Nations, whose ancestors have taken care of the land since time immemorial. The CRD believes a positive working relationship with First Nations is good for the whole region. For the CRD to have a positive relationship with First Nations, we need to acknowledge, respect, and complement their Indigenous laws, customs, and systems of governance.

Read the CRD's Statement of Reconciliation to inform your work and further understand the CRD's values.

The CRD Board has directed its staff to undertake cultural education of the CRD workforce in response to the Truth and Reconciliation recommendation 57 on the education of public servants.

The CRD Board has also committed to offering intercultural skills training to Board Directors. An organization-wide reconciliation action plan will be prepared for approval by the Board.

Look after your Mental Health

The abuse suffered by Indigenous children at residential schools was often violent, including sexual violence. Racism was prevalent. Hearing from survivors can be disturbing and triggering.

Here are some options for support:

Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line

24-hour crisis line for survivors and families of survivors.

First Nations Health Authority Mental Health Benefits

FNHA partners with Indigenous Services Canada to offer First Nations in BC a comprehensive mental health plan. The plan covers counselling services from a qualified mental health provider, including psychologists, clinical counsellors, and social workers.

The Vancouver Island Crisis Line

24-hour crisis line service to Vancouver Island, the islands of the Georgia Strait, and the mainland communities between Powell River and Rivers Inlet, as defined by Island Health. It operates 365 days a year. Crisis workers provide short-term, non-judgmental emotional support, crisis intervention, information, and resources.

KUU-US Crisis Line Society

The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial aboriginal crisis line for adults/Elders and youth.

  • Website
  • Adults/Elders: 250.723.4050
  • Child/Youth: 250.723.2040
  • Toll-free line: 1.800.588.8717