St Catharines university marks first-ever Day for Truth and Reconciliation with orange Post-Its of support

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Published October 1, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Brock University in St Catharines was a sea of orange yesterday (September 30) as students, faculty and staff alike marked their first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Virtual statements went out all day while dozen and dozens of powerful messages of support and survival that were posted on a wall in the Rankin Family Pavilion on orange Post-It notes.

The day marked all on campus with the opportunity to recognize the multigenerational legacy of the residential school system in Canada, which separated more than 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and forced them to attend schools where various forms of abuse took place.

As we now know, many of them did not survive.

Members of Brock’s Indigenous communities to spend the day with those they are closest with, a website was created filled with resources and messages in lieu of an in-person gathering.

The site includes a recorded ceremonial smudging of Indigenous flags, which were then lowered to half-mast while an honour song was sung; links to resources where more can be learned about residential schools; and an opening and closing statement from Peter Beaucage, an Elder from the Nipissing First Nation.

Brock’s Acting Vice-Provost of Indigenous Engagement Robyn Bourgeois said the day is a difficult one for Indigenous Peoples.

“This is a hard day for many of us,” she told students in a recorded message.

“I pray for all of the Indigenous children, past, present and future, who have for too long bore the brunt of the Indian residential school system. I pray for the families, the parents and communities who have lost generations of their children to this system.”

Aboriginal Events Co-ordinator Cindy Biancaniello felt emotional, seeing the display in the Rankin Family Pavilion, where members of the Brock community were invited to learn more about Indigenous histories and to write notes of truth and reconciliation.

She said she was moved by the messages and the many orange shirts she saw passing by.

“Everyone from across campus has been reaching out to see how they can help and get involved and that has been awesome,” she said.

“Wearing orange shirts on September 30 has always been a big thing here in Aboriginal Student Services and in Indigenous education in general, but now it’s everywhere. It’s in the community and so many people are taking the time to learn.”

Biancaniello added, “It’s a horrific legacy that people need to learn about. I want the orange shirts to be as obvious a symbol for people as the poppy is on Remembrance Day.”

(Below photo of Robyn Bourgeois posing by the flags at half-mast and top photo of the messages of the wall in the Rankin Family Pavilion courtesy of Brock University)


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