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National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

By: Emily Conte, Articling Student

One hundred years ago, the Deputy Minister of the former Indian Affairs department made a prediction – that in a century’s time, Indigenous culture would cease to exist.

A central component of this plan was the Residential School Program. To eliminate Indigenous identity, the Program deliberately targeted the bond between parent and child. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day to mourn and reflect upon this tragedy and to honour the survivors and their families.

The scope of the Residential School Program cannot be overstated. The federal government estimated that in the Program’s 150 years, over 150,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students passed through these schools.

While the last Residential School closed in 1996, the Program’s reprehensible legacy persists. Numerous Indigenous languages are endangered or lost. Generations of Indigenous peoples felt isolated from both their communities and Euro-Canadian society. And most grimly, many children never returned to their homes.

This is a dark history. But it is one that Canadians must never stray away from. To this end, September 30th has been marked as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day commemorates the children who did and did not survive the Residential School Program. It also honours the victims’ families and their communities.

Ensuring this past is never forgotten is only one step in the long road to reconciliation. While the Canadian government has made headway on several of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls-to-Action, much remains to be done.

This day should have a particular significance for lawyers. It is no secret that law has been a tool of colonization. This pattern is not new, and it is not unique to Canada. However, as members of Canada’s legal community, we have a special responsibility to acknowledge how Canadian law has contributed to this pattern, and to be alert to future legal developments so that they are not repeated.

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