Queen’s honours National Day of Truth & Reconciliation

‘It’s only through becoming educated that people will understand’

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is happening 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.

With classes cancelled on Friday, Queen’s is set to recognize its latest holiday.

Sept. 30 marks the second National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, coinciding with Orange Shirt Day and intended to honour Indigenous people in Canada.

The AMS, the University, and the City of Kingston are hosting various events to promote engagement in Truth and Reconciliation.

“The AMS has planned to allow staff the day off on Friday. This applies to all people working in the office, Tricolour, CoGro, and all other services, except the Peer Support Centre and Walkhome,” Chloë Umengan, AMS social issues commissioner (internal) said in an interview with The Journal.

Umengan said the Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) spearheaded events happening on campus. They set up booths in Mackintosh-Corry and have been handing out orange shirts in front of Stauffer Library.

The AMS has also been giving out orange shirts, as well as orange pins and stickers that say: “Every Child Matters.”

Umengan said these items have been available at the AMS offices in the LaSalle building, as well as the ARC and Common Ground (CoGro).

Orange shirts are worn in commemoration of and to reflect on the tragedies the Canadian government and white settlers have perpetuated against Indigenous populations, Umengan added. 

She said the AMS encourages everyone to not take the day as a “fun day off,” but as a day to reflect and educate yourself on injustices in Canada.

Janice Hill (Kanonhsyonne), associate vice-principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation), said the OII has worked with a committee, largely coordinated through the Office of the Vice-Principal of Finance and Administration, to plan events.

“One of the important things to remember is that the work of reconciliation, and of this day, should not rest on the backs of Indigenous people,” Hill said in an interview with The Journal. “We are celebrating our resilience of course, but also for many it’s a trigger about past injustices.”

Among the events and activities taking place across campus on Friday is an Indigenous art and history exhibit, and an Indigenous craft workshop for Indigenous students at Four Directions.

There will be a sacred fire for all at Agnes Benidickson field from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, and another specifically for Indigenous students at Four Directions from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The OII will be handing out orange shirts along University Ave., and raising the ‘Every Child Matters’ flag and the survivor’s flag outside Richardson Hall before the sacred fire.

“The survivor’s flag is full of symbolism that’s important to survivors from the residential school era and experience,” Hill said.

Lindsay Brant, the former education developer in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, will also be facilitating a learning session for faculty members.

Hill said the City of Kingston is also holding some events, such as the Kingston Police walk and various fundraising activities.

Hill spoke to how non-Indigenous students can engage in learning about this day. She said there are “lots of resources” available through the libraries on campus, which are available in different formats other than books, such as videos.

“Sometimes it’s more impactful to watch a video, especially if it’s a video of a survivor's story that they have recorded,” Hill said.

“There are survivors who have shared their stories in an effort to educate the rest of the country about exactly what this is all about and what the impact has been on them, their families, and the trauma from the residential school experience.”

The OII website also has a resource list with books, articles, podcasts, and other information available to help people educate themselves. Additionally, the OII is inviting students to sign a personal commitment to advancing reconciliation.

Hill said classes were cancelled Friday afternoon to encourage students, staff, and faculty to either take part in planned events or to engage with their own learning. She said it’s important to learn about and understand the experiences of children in residential schools.

“Children were taken away as young as three years old from their family and some of them never returned home. Never knew their family. Never knew their language […] It breaks my heart to think about those babies and children and experiences that they must have had.”

Hill encouraged everyone to listen to stories from survivors, who know the truth.

“Understanding that some of the social issues we’re facing as Indigenous people in our communities are still the residue of what happened to our ancestors in residential schools.”

“It’s only through becoming educated that people will understand—not only understand our history, but understand some of our current realities.”

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