Burlingtonians celebrate the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation at Spencer Smith Park

By Katelyn Goodwin

October 1st, 2022



Burlington residents both Indigenous and non-Indigenous gathered in Spencer Smith Park Friday evening to mark National Day of Truth and Reconciliation also known as Orange Shirt Day, a day in which we honour survivors of residential schools and the children who never returned home from them, as well as their families and communities. The event contained information booths, public displays, speeches from Indigenous speakers affected by intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system, and a reflective walk.

The walk that celebrated the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation day in Burlington began at the Pier.

There were very close to a hundred if not a few more residents participating in these events-especially the reflective walk and ceremony at Lift Bridge lighthouse following it. Those events were where most attendees were taking the chance to listen, learn, and talk amongst each other. While observing and taking part in the walk and ceremony, I caught some of the words spoken between people. Most were talking about the impacts of residential schools and the trauma left behind by them still affecting Indigenous people and communities, as well as the stories told to us from children/grandchildren of residential school survivors and non-survivors in their speeches. I think the amount of people talking about the painful but true history of these schools and those affected by them at once says a lot about the impact of this event.

People gathered in small groups to talk about different residential. school experiences.

I talked to several members from the Indigenous community; with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts  and  uncles,  who had been taken away from their families and put into a  residential schools. While telling their almost all of them got teary-eyed and were able to share the stories in great detail.

Speaker and family member of residential school survivors Laura Suthers said that though Truth and Reconciliation Day is a day of healing that helps create awareness of the tragedies that occurred in the schools, it is also one that can bring back trauma for survivors and their families, acknowledging that my question as to what the day meant to her was quite loaded and hard to answer at first. She noted how important it is for non-indigenous people to honour residential school survivors and children who never made it home not just September 30th, but every day of the year. “While the truth can hurt” she said – “it needs to be said.’

White Eagle, the daughter of a residential school survivor addressed the audience telling them how important it is that we not forget what was done to the Canadian Indigenous community.

Event leader, speaker, and an Indigenous person affected by the intergenerational trauma of residential schools White Eagle talked who about how vital is to remember survivors of residential schools and those who didn’t return home.  Honour those affected by the horrors of and do not hold back any information when talking about what went on in residential schools.

Something she told me that should be considered is that while the Truth and Reconciliation Day is meant to be one for Indigenous people and their healing journeys, they also use it to educate non-Indigenous people about residential schools while being reminded of their trauma. This is something she describes as a ‘double-edged sword.’

The participants at the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation gathered on the Beach.

Steven Paquette, an elder who works with the Halton District School Board,  said the day is important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous as it is important in relation to Canadian history and builds allyship and spreads awareness in non-Indigenous communities while acknowledging strength and prosperity in Indigenous people.

Walking along what used to be a rail bed for trains that took produce to markets around the world those participated in xxx

I left the events at Spencer Smith Park on National Day of Truth and Reconciliation realizing that through talking to people who have personal stories to tell about this tragic part of Canadian history is that both this day and events related to it are needed to both honour the voices of residential school survivors living and deceased and remind us to stand with members of the Indigenous community and listen to their experiences not just for one day, but every day.


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