Over the last number of months, we have experienced heartbreaking and sobering events as we have learned in undeniable terms the true legacy of the Residential Schools. An uncomfortable truth is that these Residential Schools are not part of our distant past. The last Residential School in Canada closed in 1996. I graduated from High School in 1997.
The Government of Canada recently passed legislation declaring September 30 a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day provides an opportunity for us all to recognize and commemorate the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools. It is also a day to honour and remember the survivors, their families, and communities who continue to bear witness to these tragedies.
At our last meeting, Lanark County Council unanimously supported flying the Every Child Matters Flag at the Lanark County Administration Building for the month of September to recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. All flags at the County Administration Building have been lowered since May 31, 2021 to honour the children found in mass graves across Canada and will remain lowered until further notice.
At our next Community Services meeting on September 8th, Council will be receiving a presentation from the Indigenous Health and Well-being Working Group from the Community Safety and Well-bring Advisory Committee for Lanark County and Smiths Falls. The Working Group is led by Elder Larry McDermott. The presentation will provide an update on current activities and recommendations for Council’s consideration on additional actions the County can take related to municipal/Indigenous relations.
Last week, the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) provided a draft resolution as well as resources for municipalities for the Nation Day for Truth and Reconciliation. These materials were a result of AMO’s Indigenous Relations Working Group. As a director for AMO, I can say that the discussion around the table when these resources were tabled was thoughtful and emotional.
Lanark County Council will be considering these resources and the next steps we can take as a community leaders at our next meeting. The resources include:
- An overview of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) Calls to Action that we as municipal governments can address.
- Ideas and options that we as municipal leaders can take to better support and engage with Indigenous residents and neighbours
- A draft resolution in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Additionally, we are working with Elder Larry McDermott and community partners to plan an appropriate tribute for September 30, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. At this time, an online educational opportunity is being planned for late September as well as a ceremony to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. More details will be shared as they become available.
In closing, I’d like to encourage residents to learn, and get involved. Part of making change is committing to being uncomfortable, to learning and challenging what we think we know. We can all do something. Here are some ideas:
- Join a local Truth and Reconciliation Groups or attend their events: Mississippi Mills All My Relations and Lanark County Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation
- Learn about the work of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Read the Ten Guiding Principles of Truth and Reconciliation
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
Remember, there is a National Crisis Line is available to provide support to former residential school students and those affected. Emotional and crisis referral services are available by calling 1-866-925-4419.