‘We all have a lot of healing to do’: Thursday marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

'We all have a lot of healing to do': Thursday marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

It’s a day of listening and learning, according to local Indigenous leaders.

“People need to understand that there are some children that did not come home,” said Eddy Charlie, one of the organizers of Victoria Orange Shirt Day and a residential school survivor.

Charlie said the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is long overdue and it will take generations for families to heal from the abuse and trauma inflicted from residential schools. He also says now is a good time to begin that journey of healing.

“I hope people will open themselves up to hearing the stories of residential school survivors and trying to understand the history of residential schools, and the impact residential schools had on survivors — the ones who made it home and the ones who didn’t,” he said.

He said many families are still grieving over a loved one who did not return and the ones who did come back brought anger, pain, and violence to their communities.

As someone who suffered and experienced that first hand, Charlie said it’s time to end the cycle of violence.

“We all have a lot of healing to do and this is one of the greatest opportunities for it to happen,” he said.

While it is hard to talk about, some residential school survivors, including Doug LaFortune and Kathleen Horne, are grateful for the community’s support and willingness to listen.

“A lot of people don’t want to hear about it, but it happened,” said LaFortune.

“We don’t want it to happen to anybody else’s children. Children are precious and they should always be cared for and not dumped away and hidden away like they have been in the past,” he continued.

Horne agrees and urges people to spend the day “honouring the ones that didn’t get to experience” life.

“We got to come home. We’re survivors. We had families. We got married. We got children,” she said, adding many others were robbed of that opportunity.

Horne also said she’s grateful to have retained some of her culture and language that many others were stripped of.

“They took our language, they took our arts, they took our culture, they took our families,” she said.

Others in the Indigenous community will be using the day to hold space for survivors and listen to their stories, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.

“It’s really a day of reflection of honouring the many lives lost,” said Eddi Wilson, a two-spirit Metis performance artist.

“To acknowledge that generational trauma is real and it does not define our culture,” Wilson said.

They hope the day sparks an ongoing dialogue of what really happened behind closed doors.

There will be holding multiple events on Vancouver Island tomorrow to honour the day, including the Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters ceremony in Centennial Square.

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Tahmina AzizTahmina Aziz

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