We owe it to residential school victims, survivors — and ourselves — to ‘dive into ugly truth’

This past week social media lit up with three days about children: National Daughters Day, National Sons Day, and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The first two seem like new, commercial, greeting card occasions, and hopefully won’t distract from the third, which is where our focus should be right now in Canada.

According to web searches, National Sons Day is twice a year, on Sept. 28 and March 4. (Insert joke here about gender disparity even in national fake holiday recognition.)

National Daughters Day is Sept. 25, though World Daughters Day was supposedly on Sept. 28. Search engines inform me that other countries celebrate National Daughters Day on Oct. 1 or the last Sunday in September. This day seems to have originated in India, from a greeting card company (shocking!) to recognize and honour daughters in a patriarchal society.

We may have come a long way “baby,” but there is still a long way to go, and it isn’t changing fast enough. I’m still baffled as the gender gap on everything from salary to orgasms continues, and the world still seems to be debating if women are allowed to choose what they can do with their own bodies. Ideally, I’d like to see more of a focussed movement on equality for girls and women come out of this day, not just social media posts. Accordingly, I didn’t buy my son nor daughter a card nor a present, as, really, every day is sons and daughters day.

If you missed those national days, there is National Child Day/World Children’s Day on Nov. 20. On that day, the conversation is around the rights children should have according to the UN Convention: survival, development, protection, and participation. We care because, as nationalchildday.org states: “One in three children in Canada do not enjoy a safe and healthy childhood … Now more than ever, we need to amplify the voices of children and youth. They need to be seen and heard.”

This last sentence links us to the importance of hearing the voices of the child victims of residential schools. Sept. 30 marked Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Once “Orange Shirt Day” honouring Phyllis Webstad, who had her orange shirt taken away on the first day of residential school, Sept. 30 now strives to make more than a hashtag out of #everychildmatters.

It is our duty that all Canadians know the legacy of the residential school system and its cultural genocide, so that everyone can understand the bloodstain on Canada’s flag from the past, and learn of the intergenerational trauma that still exists. The day was made official as news broke worldwide in June of the graves at residential schools across the country. It was high time for the government to declare the day as it was one of the 94 calls to action from the truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). Sadly, so many more of the calls to action should have been implemented by now.

I continue to share the calls to action in my social media hoping at least one person will read them each time. Those who do are shocked to learn that the death of children in residential schools has been known about for a long time, not to mention the very disproportionate concerns over the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

There is much we can do as allies, from reading the calls to action and the executive summary of the TRC report, to listening without being defensive if someone is brave enough to share their story, and then doing what we can to catalyze the implementation of the calls to action.

Linking all of these September national days together, I’m reminded of how lucky I was that I wasn’t taken from my parents in the 1970s and sent to residential school, nor adopted by another family in the Sixties Scoop. I am blessed that I will never know what it feels like to be told that I am not good enough to raise my own children and to have them ripped out of my arms. My son and daughter aren’t left with trauma had that been me and neither will their kids inherit it.

Next year, if we choose to post photos celebrating national sons and daughters days, I hope that even more people will be reflecting about residential schools and their pervasive negative legacy on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. We owe it to the victims, survivors, and ourselves to dive into the ugly truth to pave the way for reconciliation, because every child matters.

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