National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was marked in Sooke on Friday with a public ceremony.
The federal statutory holiday, also known as Orange Shirt Day, was established last year to remember children who died while being forced to attend residential schools, those who survived, and the families and communities still affected by lasting trauma.
Canada’s residential school system, funded by the federal government and run by churches, was established in the 1800s. It removed roughly 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children from their families. The last school closed in 1997.
Many children were sexually, physically or psychologically abused in the system designed to get the “Indian” out of the child.
Mayor Maja Tait joined First Nations representatives, community groups, and others dressed in orange for a ceremony at Vancouver Island Regional Library.
Tait addressed the crowd of several hundred during the ceremony.
“It is an important day of reflection, but the journey continues. It does not end today,” she said.
“I encourage all of you to be allies in the journey.”
Monique Pat, a member of T’Sou-ke Nation, said that the day was about residential survivors, but the past atrocities have affected every generation since then.
“It happened to all of us, and it affects all of us today,” she said. “Orange Shirt Day is so important.”
Several Sooke Truth for Reconciliation members also spoke at the ceremony, including Val Kaufman, a Métis, who invited people to sign up for this year’s action groups.
“These things happened to many, many people,” she said, calling for unity and urging people to work together and take action.