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Honouring Truth and Reconciliation Week

With Orange Shirt Day and the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, school communities throughout the District are coming together in many ways to build understanding and awareness.

The District’s Indigenous Education Team is supporting the journey in schools, including by sharing resources provided for Truth and Reconciliation Week, which is a five-day national event with historical workshops and activities for students, as well as artistic and cultural performances by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists put on by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Rob Smyth is the District Principal of Indigenous Education:

It’s very powerful to have schools engaging during the week and throughout the year. There’s a real desire to be part of the learning and strengthening of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. This is also a really special year with the addition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation providing time for everyone in our school communities to acknowledge and reflect.”

There will be no school on the new statutory day on September 30. In recognition of National Truth and Reconciliation Day and the entire week, flags at schools and all District sites will be lowered to half mast from Monday September 27 through and including Friday October 1.

During the week, students, school and District staff are recognizing Orange Shirt Day, which originated nearly a decade ago as a way to commemorate “Phyllis’ story.” As a young girl, Phyllis had her orange shirt taken away on her first day at a residential school in Williams Lake, BC. Wearing orange is one of the visible ways school communities in the District honour those who attended residential schools, acknowledge what was taken away and reinforce that every child matters.

There are many different explorations throughout schools, such as classroom activities, examining resources about the history of residential schools, the healing journey of survivors and their families, and how Orange Shirt Day and the National Truth and Reconciliation Day came about. École Alpha and Burnaby Mountain Secondary are two examples of schools working with Elders. Elder Alroy Baker K’etximtn of the Squamish Nation and Elder Stewart Gonzales Sempulyan of the Musqueam and Squamish Nations are courageously sharing their stories as survivors of the residential school system at the assemblies for Orange Shirt Day.

While Orange Shirt Day and the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation provide an opportunity to ground the start of the school year in our shared history and develop a common understanding, Indigenous principles of learning are also integral day-to-day, as we move forward together in an ongoing journey of reconciliation. We are grateful to local Indigenous Elders for generously sharing their wisdom with students and staff in many ways during the school year.

Staff development is also being supported throughout the year. For example, the District is hosting a Truth and Reconciliation Speaker Series to support all staff with including authentic Indigenous perspectives and learnings in schools. Education plays a critical role in reconciliation and developing a culturally safe learning environment for youth and families.

Learn more about Indigenous Education in Burnaby Schools

Read the opinion editorial in the Burnaby Now by Burnaby Board of Education Chair Jen Mezei:
Burnaby schools doing more than reflecting – we’re taking action

Read the story in the Burnaby Now
All Burnaby school trustees to give one day’s pay for Truth and Reconciliation Day

Read the story in the Burnaby Beacon:
Meet the Indigenous elder creating space for learning through art in Burnaby


Updated October 2021