Dear families,

This September 30th, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) will acknowledge a new federally recognized day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Because this is a federal statutory holiday all schools will remain open and provincial employees do not have the day off.

Our school will hold its first virtual assembly on Friday, October 1st 2021 where we will reflect on the events that took place during week.

You are welcome to watch the Silverheights’ Every Child Matters Assembly online, on Friday, October 1st at 11:30 AM via Google Stream by clicking on THIS LINK.

In order to recognize the importance of Truth and Reconciliation Week and Orange Shirt Day, we will be lowering flags starting on Monday, September 27, and will remain lowered until the end of day on Monday, October 4th, which is the National Day of Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Flags will already be down for Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day and should remain lowered until the end of day on October 4.

Cultural Safety in Our Classes

Our educators at Silverheights have been provided with many resources to learn about the impact that learning about, as well as not learning about, residential schools and their legacy may have on our school communities. There are many Indigenous staff and students in the WRDSB. We are confident that our educators at Silverheights will be mindful of all potential impacts (not only intentions) of our actions and that they will honour Survivors, their families and Indigenous Peoples in Canada by teaching Indigenous bravery, resilience and innovation in the face of hard truths in a manner that is pedagogically sound and age appropriate.

Education for Families:

1. What is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

The government recently passed legislation to make September 30th a federal statutory holiday called the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Residential School survivors, their families, and communities.

This day was created as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #80 that states: ”We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is meant to provide the time and space to allow us to reflect on the atrocities this nation committed against the original inhabitants. Unlike most holidays, this is not seen as a day for celebration but rather one for reflection.

In addition to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, WRDSB will continue to observe Orange Shirt Day, which falls on the same date (September 30th), as a way to honour residential school survivors, those who did not survive, and their descendants. Educating ourselves about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day is just one of the ways non-Indigenous people can work toward reconciling relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

2. What is Orange Shirt Day?

Orange Shirt Day is observed each September 30th and was first launched in 2013. The origin of Orange Shirt Day is based on Phyllis Webstad’s story of entering an Indian Residential School in 1973 and having her new orange shirt removed from her and replaced with a school uniform.

For well over a century, Indian Residential Schools were used as a tool to assimilate Indigenous Peoples into the dominant Canadian culture. Established in 1892 by the Canadian government, in partnership with churches, Indigenous children were often moved long distances from their families and lived at the schools. Once at school, Indigenous children were forbidden to speak their languages nor practice their cultures and traditions. Living conditions for students in Indian Residential Schools were often harsh and there was often significant emotional, physical, sexual abuse, and even death of the students. Since May 2021, more than 3,000 children have been recovered near the sites of former Indian Residential Schools.

Phyllis’ experience of having her orange shirt taken from her is symbolic of all that was taken from Indigenous Peoples as a result of Indian Residential Schools and is the reason we wear orange on September 30th each year.