Vancouver Events to Commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Bones of Crows opens the Vancouver International Film Festival with a story of the resilience of a child forced to attend residential school; Ayasew Ooskana Pictures

September 30 marks two very important days that honour the survivors and descendants of residential schools in Canada.

The National Day for Truth Reconciliation is a federal statutory holiday devoted to remembering the children who attended residential school, many of whom did not return home, as well as recognizing the ongoing legacy of residential school on their family and friends. Orange Shirt Day, which champions that “Every Child Matters,” invites discussion on the intergenerational impacts of residential school. It emerged from the St. Joseph Mission Residential Commemoration Project and Reunion events in which participants were called to continue to honour the children of residential school as a vital component of reconciliation.

According to Reconciliation Canada, from the 1870s until 1996, 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes and made to attend over 130 residential schools across Canada. Virtually all (90%-100%) suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Mortality rates were incredibly high (40-60%).

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day are difficult but necessary steps on the road to reconciliation. Events in Vancouver proximate to September 30 aim to educate, create safe and productive dialogue, as well as build bridges between people and communities.

Community Gathering at Trout Lake (John Hendry Park)

From 1pm to 4pm on September 30, Trout Lake Community Centre and Nisga’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society invite everyone to gather to commemorate Orange Shirt Day. The event will feature ceremony, drumming, songs, and stories. Orange shirts will be sold, with proceeds supporting survivors.

Orange Shirt Day at Grandview Park

Britannia Community Services Centre, in partnership with the Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS), the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre (VAFC), and the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre (VACPC), invites Elders and their families to gather at the VAFC before walking together to Grandview Park to listen to speakers and testimony from Nisga’a Elders, as well as participate in crafts, a drum circle, and discussion.

Spotlight on Indigenous Works at the Vancouver International Film Festival

This Is Not a Ceremony

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) opens with Bones of Crows, directed by Marie Clements, which tells the story of Aline Spears who is forced to go to residential school, along with her siblings. Her experiences there impact the rest of her life. The film captures Spears’ resilience as she uses her fluency in Cree to her advantage after she enlists during World War II. Showing September 19 at 6pm and October 4 at 9pm at the Centre for Performing Arts.

VIFF is also holding an interactive exhibition called Signals from October 1 to 3 at Emily Carr University’s Centre for Digital Media and Departure Lounge. It will include the short film This Is Not a Ceremony by Colin van Loon, which immerses viewers in stories that explore the dark truths of colonialism in Canada.

BC Culture Days: Artists James Harry and Priscilla Omulo

Priscilla Omulo

BC Culture Days is devoting September 30 to events that mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In Weaving Our Story Toward Reconcilation (Kinsmen Hall, Port Coquitlam), Priscilla Omulo from the Tsartlip Nation will hold an all-day event in which she will lead participants in weaving hearts with cedar, as well as in thoughtful reflection and discussion. These hearts will become part of a larger sculpture that will be located at Blakeburn Lagoons Park. BC Culture Days will also release the film Weaving Our Story Toward Reconcilation on September 30.

From 1pm to 2:30pm, James Harry, who recently won the GRIFFIN’s Indigenous Studio Award, will discuss his work for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, followed by a Q&A. The events will take place at Griffin Art Projects in North Vancouver.

Carousel Theatre For Young People’s Frozen River

Kathleen MacLean and Mallory James in Frozen River. Set and props design by Andrew Moro, costume design by Jay Havens, and lighting design by Dean Cowieson. Photo: Leif Norman, courtesy of Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

From September 28 to October 16, Carousel Theatre for Young People (CYTP) is mounting Frozen River (nîkwatin sîpiy), which is a story about two eleven-year-olds—one Cree and one Scottish—who must navigate cultural and linguistic differences, their relationship to the land, and wrongdoings that span generations. Opening night occurs on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The play is suitable for children over five, and contains puppetry to make this educational play thoughtful, yet accessible for the whole family.

Museum of Anthropology Culture Club and Sound House

‘Every Child Matters’ shirt at the MOA Shop. This year’s t-shirts are designed by xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) artist Darryl Blythare. All net proceeds will be donated to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society – British Columbia.⁣⁣

On September 25 (11am to 12:30pm), the Museum of Anthroplogy (MOA) will host a Culture Club event with Damara Jacobs-Petersen, curator of Indigenous programming. During the event, families can learn about residential schools and their ongoing legacy through stories, lanterns, and a tour of the museum. Free with museum admission.

On September 29 (7-9pm), they will be holding a Sound House event that will feature a orange lantern procession to remember the children of residential schools, as well as dancing by Tsatu Stalqayu (Coastal Wolf Pack) and Spakwus Stolem. The cost is $20, which includes museum admission.

Intergenerational March for Orange Shirt Day

UBC Applied Science and Land and Food Systems are holding an intergenerational march on September 30. The event begins at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, where bannock and tea can be purchased, followed by opening remarks, performances, and then the march itself. An Elder will speak at the Reconciliation Pole.

Please note that September 30 is an extremely difficult day for survivors and their families and communities. Sensitivity, openness, and allyship are crucial.

Mental health support is available via The Hope for Wellness 24-hour Help Line (1-855-242-3310), by calling the National Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) to be connected to info on emotional crisis services, or by reaching the IRSSS 24-hour crisis line (1-800-721-0066).

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