September 29, 2023

The Law Society honours the Indigenous people who were forced to attend Canada’s residential schools, including the survivors and the children who never came home. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 is a time to reflect and create meaningful discussion about the ongoing intergenerational impacts and trauma caused by the painful legacy of residential schools. The Law Society will be observing this important day and closing its offices on Monday, October 2 in lieu.

We encourage everyone in the legal profession and beyond to take the opportunity to deepen their understanding about the truth and legacy of the residential school system and reflect on how we can continue to take action toward reconciliation. The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has emphasized that education is key to reconciliation, stating, “While education is what got us into this mess, education is also the tool that will get us out.”

We have provided some educational resources and ways to participate to get you started:

  • Purchase and wear an orange shirt on September 30. Ensure you purchase from an official retailer so that $10 from every shirt sold goes to the Orange Shirt Society.
  • Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final report released in 2015. The TRC created a historical record of the residential school system after spending six years travelling to all parts of Canada and hearing from more than 6,500 witnesses. All Canadians are encouraged to read a summary or the full report to learn more about the truth of Indian Residential Schools and their legacy. The TRC report also includes a volume on missing children and unmarked burials — the search for unmarked graves continues across Canada.
  • Watch Justice Murray Sinclair’s presentation, delivered at a Truth and Reconciliation hearing in May 2013 at Williams Lake, BC.
  • Read the Davin Report, the report that led to the creation of government-funded Indian Residential Schools. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald followed Davin’s recommendation to contract with churches and keep costs down for the government.
  • Learn about the Bryce Report, completed in 1907 by Dr. Peter Bryce, Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Indian Affairs. The report provided recommendations and detailed the poor health conditions, including the staggering death rates, at residential schools. The government did not publish Dr. Bryce’s report but it was leaked to a few journalists. Despite the report and public outcry, the residential schools were not closed and Dr. Bryce’s recommendations were largely ignored.
  • The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) at UBC addresses the colonial legacy of residential schools and other policies imposed by the Canadian government on Indigenous peoples, and ensures that this history is acknowledged, examined and understood. Explore the centre’s collections, exhibitions, podcasts and films, or plan a visit.
  • Attend events in your community or online. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is offering virtual programming and resources from September 25­–30, 2023, including lunch and learns on topics like unconscious bias and Indigenous peoples’ rights and a livestream of the Orange Shirt Day ceremony on Parliament Hill.
  • Listen to Indigenous-hosted podcasts such as The Secret Life of Canada, Stolen, Kuper Island, RAVEN (De)Briefs and All My Relations.
  • Watch the movie Bones of Crows, directed by Marie Clements. Bones of Crows is a Canadian drama about a Cree woman who survives the Indian residential school system to become a code talker for the Canadian Air Force during World War II. The film is now available on demand on Prime Video, Apple TV or YouTube, and in select theatres. A comprehensive study guide is also available on the film’s website. Bones of Crows: the Series, a five-part mini-series, will premiere on CBC, CBC Gem and APTN TV on September 20 at 9 pm Eastern Standard Time.
  • Donate to one of the crucial Canadian organizations that provide essential services to residential school survivors and Indigenous communities, including the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and the Indigenous Friends Association. Community groups like the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver also offer Indigenous support programs and are always accepting donated items like clothing, toiletries and blankets. You can also donate directly to the Orange Shirt Society to help create awareness of the individual, family and community impacts of Indian Residential Schools and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters."