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Survivors, family members recognize National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

People are encouraged to wear orange shirts to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday.

People are encouraged to wear orange shirts to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday.

Photo: (Mike McArthur/CBC)


Thousands of students are expected to participate in Sudbury events to recognize the day.

For Jay Jones the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday is a time to reflect on the truth of residential schools, and their intergenerational impact.

For me personally, it's an opportunity to educate people that have never heard the story of Indian residential schools, said Jones, who is an active member of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.   

They may have heard about them, but when you hear a story from an intergenerational survivor whose both parents are survivors of a residential school, I think it brings it a little bit closer to home.

Jones' parents were both survivors of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

He said his mother was especially active in teaching people the truth about the residential school system, which has come to light for many Canadians in the last year.

When the unmarked burials of Kamloops broke open I remember one of the survivors I worked with, the first thing she said is, 'Maybe now they'll believe us,' Jones said. 

On Friday, Jones will take part in a walk of remembrance at Algoma University, which was the former site of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School.

He will also be part of a panel of intergenerational survivors who will share their stories.

All that stuff trickles down, Jones said. So it's a time to talk about those things too, you know, all the generational effects, because it wasn't just one generation.

Similar ceremonies and events will take place across Canada and northeastern Ontario.

In Sudbury, the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre in Bell Park will host a full day of events to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

It will start with a sunrise ceremony at 7 a.m. That afternoon actors will perform a play called Debwewin (Truth), which tells the story of the intergenerational trauma the residential schools caused.

They'll give people, you know, some true history, hard history, but it'll allow them some space to get more educated on what actually took place in these lands, said Angela Recollet, the e-niigaanzid, or CEO, of the Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury, and one of the event's organizers. 

Recollet said she expects more than 2,000 students from the region to attend the day's events. Anyone is welcome to attend as well, she said, and should consider arriving early.

Recollet said National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is difficult for her and residential school survivors.

I'm an Indian Day school survivor. What's on our mind is we're constantly having to be retriggered with the trauma of what this country has done to the original people, she said.

So it's not just what's on our mind, it's in our blood memory. It's in our heart. The triggers happen. It's real.

But Recollet said the day is also a time to show her people's resiliency.

There's hope for us as humans to come back with some humanity, break down the walls of racism, the structured racism that has been imposed on all of us, she said.

Mushkegowuk Council Grand Chief Alison Linklater said she plans to spend the day with her family and Mushkegowuk members.

I want to look at honouring our survivors of residential schools, as well as their families, she said. And also to the children that never made it home.

Linklater said there remains a lot of work to be done on reconciliation. 

She said it's time for the federal government to implement the 94 calls to action (new window) from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Our people are healing and we still need those resources in place for them to move forward, Linklater said.

Not everybody has access, or we don't have enough resources yet. But that's one of the main things is for people to heal and move forward.

CBC News with files from Ashishvangh Contractor