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This summer, the federal government passed legislation to mark September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Province of BC has recognized this as a day of commemoration and as such, the Surrey School District will be closing all of our schools, as well as all district sites on September 30, 2021.
"In June the Tk'emlúps te Secwé pemc First Nation announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of what was once a residential school in Kamloops. This discovery and the many others that followed at residential school sites across the country serve as a difficult reminder for survivors of residential schools and their families, of the hurt and intergenerational trauma they have endured," said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education.
"The Surrey Board of Education is committed to highlighting the importance of this day and encouraging all staff and students to take the time to educate, reflect and engage in conversations about truth, reconciliation and the actions that each of us can be taking."
Creating a national day of recognition was one of 94 recommendations given by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Action 80 called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous people, to establish a statutory holiday "to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."
Surrey Schools recognizes the importance of this date and the opportunity it provides for our staff, students and families to reflect on the unmarked graves of children discovered at the sites of former residential schools across Canada, and the lasting impact these schools have had on Indigenous communities.
Our schools have previously observed September 30 as Orange Shirt Day, a movement to recognize the colonial and violent legacy of residential schools and commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
Orange Shirt Day recalls the experience of residential school Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who at six was stripped of her new orange shirt on her first day attending the St. Joseph Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, BC. The date of September 30 was chosen because it was the time of year when Indigenous children were typically removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools.
Our district is committed to educating students and our community about the importance of how residential schools created intergenerational trauma that deeply affects Indigenous Peoples today. We know that each of our 131 schools will find their own unique way to show support to mark this important date.
We continue to show gratitude to members of our Aboriginal Education Council, and the Elders, Leaders and families from the Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and other Coast Salish Peoples, as well as our Indigenous staff, students and their families who continuously share their voice and their stories with our staff and students and provide their counsel in relation to our programs and services.