Thursday marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

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It is the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

And it is to recognize the horrors of Canada’s former residential school system and to honour the lost children and survivors.

In Walkerton there will be a vigil at 6:45 p.m.

Community members will be gathering to honour, remember, and pay respects to the survivors of Residential Schools, and those who never made it home. People are asked to meet at Memory Lane Park and then participants will go on an illuminated walk ending in a vigil at the Walkerton Branch Library.

For those wishing to leave something behind as a memorial, organizers ask to ensure the items are natural materials such as paper, rocks, flowers, etc.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation also coincides with Orange Shirt Day. Since 2013, September 30 has been called Orange Shirt Day in honour of residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad.

She had been given a new orange shirt by her grandmother which was immediately taken away from her on her first day at the residential school. People across the country wear orange each September 30 to honour residential school survivors like Webstad.

Many schools in the local area are also sharing the story.

In June, the Trudeau government passed legislation to make September 30 a federal statutory holiday. As such, all federally regulated workplaces will be closed on that date. The national holiday was created in response to the 80th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, which was issued in 2015.

While the federal government had hoped provinces and territories would follow its lead and make the day a provincial holiday, few have.

The Ontario government stated it would recognize the day similar to how it marks Remembrance Day. Provincial officials stated they were working with Indigenous partners to ensure the day is a reflection on the tragic history and legacy of residential schools.

But the province would not be giving workers the day off.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Quebec have also chosen not to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were taken away from their families and placed into the church-run residential school system.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has so far identified more than 4,100 children who died at the schools, most due to malnourishment or disease.

The government-funded 139 residential schools operated between the 1880s and 1996. There were two such schools in southwestern Ontario, the Mount Elgin school southwest of London and the Mohawk Institute near Brantford.

The federal government has set up a website which shares resources so people can learn more about First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

–with files from Miranda Chant

Read original story from Midwestern Ontario News –