A wave of orange shirts flooded the streets of Downtown Montreal for the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The Every Child Matters march took place on Friday, Sept. 30 in Montreal to commemorate the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Montrealers wearing orange shirts gathered at the base of Mount Royal to listen to powerful speeches by Indigenous leaders before beginning the march through Downtown Montreal.
The event, organized by Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Resilience Montreal, was meant to honour the children who died in Canada’s residential school system, celebrate the strength of survivors and Indigenous communities, and demand government accountability.
“When I listen to the prime minister say ‘Truth and Reconciliation,’ this is a nice, it’s a beginning, but without really being aware of the truth, how can you really reconcile,” said Steve McComber, a Mohawk elder from Kahnawá:ke during his speech.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — also known as Orange Shirt Day — was declared a recognized federal holiday in 2021. The use of the orange shirt was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor who was forced to remove her orange shirt on her first day of residential school.
Residential schools in Canada operated from the 1870s to 1996, impacting an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children. To date, thousands of unmarked graves have been found across Canada at former residential schools.
In May 2021, buried bodies of 215 children were found at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. As of May 2022, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Memorial Register confirmed the names of 4,130 children who passed away while attending residential schools.
Grand chief, Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, expressed in their speech that Canadians have a role and responsibility to honour “all of those lost children.”
“It’s just unbelievable what this country has put Indigenous people through,” Sky-Deer said.
Autumn Godwin, a member of the Generational Warriors group, shared that her own mother and great-grandmother went to residential school.
She said that a lot of the impacts are still felt today from the residential schools, such as recovering language and ceremonies. “I think that we’re just still in the very very beginning of understanding what that means and why it’s so important for the rest of Canada to catch up to what we’ve been saying for a very long time.”
Sky-Deer expressed that there are a lot of messages that need to be sent to the provincial and federal government about the history of the last 500 years against Indigenous people.
“Let’s honour the children of today by remembering those children that were lost as a result of residential schools and the genocidal acts of Canada,” said Sky-Deer.
That’s exactly what Montrealers did at 1 p.m. on Sept. 30 as they marched the streets of Downtown Montreal, chanting “when I say land, you say back” and “no pride in genocide” in their orange shirts.