Sitting with the Truth on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023

Cover image: Ch’ich eliwxih, colonially known as Mount Seymour on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. Photo by Vlad Namashko on Unsplash

CW: Mentions the history, harms, and ongoing impact of residential schools

September 30th marks the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. We invite you to pause and reflect with us and take a moment to acknowledge those whom Canada’s residential school system has harmed.

It is not by accident that September is the month we recognize Canada’s history of residential schools. With a slight chill in the air, the autumn leaves begin to change colour—the start of the school year is when Indigenous families in Canada were torn apart at the hands of the Canadian government and church systems beginning in the 1870s and continuing until as recent as 1996. Children were removed from their homes, taken to schools to unlearn their culture, language, and whole selves, and forced to assimilate into “Canadian” culture. 

The “truth” part of this national day is about confronting the atrocities we know occurred inside these schools and, with that reality, the deep and ongoing trauma that follows. In 2023, we are still discovering grave sites in communities nationwide at these schools. Just last week, 158 unmarked children’s graves were discovered in Stó:lō Nation in B.C.’s Fraser Valley—devastating findings that confirm what residential school survivors and community members have long known. The “truth” part could also be about denial. How the government, the church, and Canadians have not fully taken responsibility for the harm and lasting impacts of residential schools and often wish to leave things “in the past” as though something like that could ever be forgotten.

While we acknowledge and mourn the deep and ongoing harm caused by colonialism, truth and reconciliation require action, but not at the expense of learning and sitting with the uncomfortable truth. It is the responsibility of all of us to face the realities, practice reconciliation in our daily lives, and try to support creating a safer future. We call on all settlers to learn the hard truth, reflect with friends and family, journal about it, advocate for Indigenous truth, donate to mutual aids and straight to community members who are putting in the labour of educating us, and checking in with your Indigenous friends, coworkers, and family who are living with the reality of colonialism and racism every day. Lastly, we must remember it is not the responsibility of our Indigenous communities to teach settlers about truth and reconciliation. We must all do the work to deepen our understanding of residential schools’ history and the ongoing footprint left on our communities.

We have compiled resources across different mediums (books, social media, organizations, events) to continue on the path of learning the truth and advocating for Indigenous people. 🧡

RADIUS Reads: Book Recommendations from our Staff

  • Step Into the River: A Framework for Economic Reconciliation, Sxwpilemaát Siyám; Lily Raphael
  • Broken Circle: the dark legacy of Indian Residential Schools: a memoir, Theodore Fontaine
  • Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truth-telling, and reconciliation in Canada, Paulette Regan
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joseph 
  • 5 Little Indians, Michelle Good
  • Tuktu’s Journey, Rachel Rupke
  • Sweetest Kulu, Celina Kalluk

Find these books at Indigenous-owned bookstores Iron Dog Books, Massy Books, Nooroongji Books, Inhabit Media, Strong Nations, or your local library: Vancouver Public Library, Simon Fraser University Library.

Events to Attend