Office of Indigenous Initiatives prepares for National Day of Truth & Reconciliation

‘All people need to get educated and aware themselves’

Moment of silent to take place at 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 30. 

This article discusses the atrocities committed in Residential Schools and may be triggering for some readers. Those seeking support may contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation or Four Directions. For immediate assistance, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) is planning to run and promote events in support of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. Events will be held in the days and weeks prior to Sept. 30, and on the holiday itself.

Since the passing of Bill C-5, the Government of Canada recognizes Sept. 30 as a national holiday in direct response to Call-to-Action 80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

The Journal spoke with associate vice-principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) about the OII’s goals and activities over the next few weeks.

“We have a planning committee that is made up of a few partners: the OII, the chancellor, the principal, the provost, the associate vice-principal (Teaching and Learning), and the Associate Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration),” Hill said in an interview.

Hill said the planning committee is preparing for a visible demonstration involving orange shirts and decals to show solidarity with survivors of residential schools. 

“We will have 4,000 orange shirts to be distributed to staff and faculty. They were purposely ordered from an organization that would be of benefit to survivors from the Indian residential school system,” Hill explained. 

“We also ordered 10,000 orange shirt decals and those will be free to students, staff, and faculty. They will be distributed beginning next week.” 

“It is not just a gift of a shirt—we are asking staff and faculty to sign a declaration and make a commitment to further reconciliation from this day [Sept. 30] forward,” Hill said.

Hill added the declaration should make staff and faculty examine their relationship with reconciliation.

“It's not just [a declaration] for Sept. 30. It's to impact how you interact with the world around you going forward, and what you are going to do as an individual to increase your own awareness, understanding, and education to promote and work towards reconciliation.”

Along with the campus-wide decal and orange shirt initiative, Hill said there will be other ceremonies organized on Sept. 30 open to all members of the Queen’s community. 

“We are hoping to have a ceremony on Benidickson Field, where there will be a sacred fire and loose tobacco can be offered to the fire [...] two of the Elders will be present and will help conduct ceremony at the fire,” Hill said. 

While classes will not be cancelled this year, Hill said the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation will take the same approach as Remembrance Day. 

“There will be a moment of silence at 2:15 pm, and that is in honour of the 215 children who were found in the mass grave [on the grounds of Kamloops Residential School]. The ceremony part will start around 2 p.m.,” Hill said. 

Hill added that the OII is promoting events through faculties and groups such as the Elders.

An Elder is someone who has gained recognition as a custodian of Indigenous knowledge and has permission to disclose knowledge and beliefs. The Elders work with Indigenous students, staff, and faculty. 

“The Elders meet-and-greet is another opportunity for people to learn, and on Sept. 23 they will be doing a specific teaching,” Hill said. 

“The Centre for Teaching and Learning will be doing workshops to help faculties and instructors think about how they might include concepts around truth and reconciliation.”  

According to Hill, supports will be available for Indigenous students on campus, with special consideration towards the ongoing impact of the residential school system.

“We will continue with the same support we have been making available since the first discovery [in Kamloops]. That is with the support of the Elders and the Four Directions Student Centre counsellor,” Hill said. 

Hill believes members of the Queen’s community should take advantage of the resources listed on OII website to educate themselves and others about the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

“All people need to get educated and aware themselves—having conversations with each other, with your family, your friends, your colleagues, and peers who might not be aware.

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