Today (Sept. 30), people across the country will pause and remember the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and Indigenous communities. If you’re travelling on GO Transit and UP Express, you’ll notice some important symbols and announcements to mark the national commemoration.
GO Transit and UP Express frontline staff will be wearing elements of orange today (Sept. 30), as a symbol of respect to mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The ribbons are just one of the ways Metrolinx is observing the day that’s meant to give the opportunity to reflect on the history, legacy and impacts of Canada’s residential school system.
The new national holiday falls on Orange Shirt Day, which grew out of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School.
A special message will be broadcast on GO Transit and UP Express trains, as well as on platforms, GO buses and across digital signs on the system.
While different versions, depending on the platform, the message essentially stresses: “Metrolinx is proud to recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a time to reflect on the legacy and impacts of Residential Schools. Metrolinx acknowledges it operates on the traditional territory of many Nations, and that we have a responsibility to work with the original keepers of these lands and the many diverse Indigenous Peoples living here today. We encourage riders to learn about our shared history and the many contributions of Indigenous Peoples to this land.”
“Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity for Metrolinx to pause and reflect on what we can learn from the past, and importantly, the work we need to do in the future to continue to strengthen our relationships with Indigenous Peoples,” says David Ayotte, director of Indigenous Relations for Metrolinx.
“This work is not simple or straight forward, and it won’t be done overnight. I am encouraged that every day we are changing the way we do things to better understand and acknowledge the perspectives and rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Frontline staff, including bus drivers and station attendants, will be adding orange ribbons to their uniforms.
It’s an effort to raise awareness of the impacts of residential schools and to encourage staff to make a personal commitment to reconciliation.
Jaimi O’Hara, acting manager of Indigenous Relations, Metrolinx, points out, public commemoration is a vital component of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action, which looks to education for public servants.
“We aim to educate our staff and customers on the shared history between Canada and Indigenous Peoples, including the lasting impact of residential schools and importance of Orange Shirt Day,” says O’Hara.
To find out more about Orange Shirt Day, click here.
And, to learn more about the shared history O’Hara references, , visit your local friendship centre.
Story by Heather Glicksman, Metrolinx communications coordinator with files from the Indigenous Relations Office at Metrolinx