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July 30, 2021

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021

September 30th, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which was proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as one of its 94 Calls to Action. This day honours the survivors of the residential school system, their families, and communities. This public commemoration is a vital part of the reconciliation process in Canada as it deepens our collective awareness of this history and ensures ongoing reflection across the country for years to come.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will mean different things to different people, though we will be united in the act of reflection. This is an important moment to honour the memories of survivors, who were harmed by horrendous abuses at residential schools, and their families, who have suffered intergenerational traumas. This is also a time to commemorate those who did not survive. For all of us, it will be difficult to acknowledge and sit with the truths of the past and its enduring impact on our society.

For us, as colleagues and as leaders of the Canada Council for the Arts—one Indigenous, one non-Indigenous—we deeply value coming together on this day to reckon with the history of the residential school system, and we champion the role of the arts in this process. We also fully assume, with humanity and humility, our responsibility to ensure that the organization we have been entrusted to lead is exemplary in terms of decolonization—in its operations, its decision-making, and its actions. 

The Canada Council for the Arts is working toward a more just, equitable, and decolonized future for society. This day reminds us of our organization’s colonial origins and the urgency of our ongoing work to address the oppression, exclusion, and anti-Indigenous racism it has perpetuated as a colonial institution. This work includes the organization’s support to Indigenous arts in a way that respects and upholds the cultural sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and the concepts of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis self-determination. Indigenous staff at the Council, with the support of Indigenous peoples across the country, are leading these decolonizing efforts.

George Littlechild,  Never Again, 1993, acrylic on paper. Canada Council Art Bank Collection.
George Littlechild, Never Again, 1993, acrylic on paper. Canada Council Art Bank Collection.

Many Indigenous artists have played an important part in sharing truths about residential schools through works of art—like Michelle Good’s widely acclaimed novel Five Little Indians and Corey Payette’s powerful musical Children of God. In the coming years, works of art and literature from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis artists will continue to help us understand our past, just as they will continue to challenge us to enact real change.

The arts offer unique spaces to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in dialogue. We firmly believe that it is largely through the arts and culture that we can, and must, come to know one another more fully—in terms of the past, as well as current realities and aspirations. At the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation propels us in our responsibility to uphold this essential role for the arts on this land. Our role in the shared journey toward reconciliation is top of mind on this day as we honour the survivors, families, and communities irrevocably harmed by the residential school system.  

Simon Brault, OC, OQ
Director and CEO

Jesse Wente

Tagged As Indigenous