Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation Day is Thursday, Sept. 30, and many people – including members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band – are wondering what the day is supposed to mean.
The Similkameen Review reached out to Chief Keith Crow to speak with him and how he is approaching the government’s new holiday.
“I’ve been getting asked by a lot of people, ‘Well what does this actually mean?’ and honestly, I haven’t been able to give them an answer,” said Crow.
“I’ve been getting different government agents calling me and asking what they’re supposed to be doing.”
The federal government announced shortly before the election that Sept. 30, would become the new statutory holiday.
Little direction or conversations were provided by the government following that announcement on how the holiday should be observed, which is leading to many questions. Even within the LSIB, there are different views between different people on the day as well as on Truth and Reconciliation itself.
Many of those questions have arisen from the national conversations that contributed to the holiday declaration following the Indigenous children’s graves that were discovered this year.
“Think about Thanksgiving. There are so many different aspects to what Thanksgiving actually is but in my family, we’re thankful for what we have, where we are and what family we’re with and that’s how we celebrate it,” said Crow.
“How do you celebrate a Truth and Reconciliation Day? How do you celebrate the death of all these children that died in residential schools, how do you celebrate that?
“It’s like Remembrance Day almost, which is thanking the ones that gave us the freedom that we have, but how do we do that with the death of children?”
Crow spoke on how he personally felt disappointed with exactly how the holiday came about and its timing, and the lack of substance around the government’s part in what is supposed to bring awareness.
“I’m speaking personally here, not for my community, it’s hard. It’s a hard discussion,” said Crow. “For me, there has to be education behind it.
“It’s difficult, because if you want people to know the truth, then the proper education has to be out there to understand what it means, and right now, a lot of people can’t handle that conversation.
One example of a conversation that Crow had with a member of the government looking for guidance highlights the lack of knowledge and understanding of the knowledge behind the government’s reasoning for the holiday, particularly for the events and the around the residential school system that only officially closed in 1996.
“I told the one guy, go be with your kids. I want you to think about this; imagine being told that you had to put your kids on this truck, to ship your kids away to a school where you know they are going to be abused and they may not come home, and you don’t have an option. And if you say no you’ll be arrested. He couldn’t think of it.”
Going forward, Crow expressed his hope that there is more than just a single day, and that more education will lead to actual truth and reconciliation beyond a single holiday.
“Step up to the plate government, how are you going to right your wrongs,” said Crow.
“Truth and Reconciliation is an action, it’s not a day off.”
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