September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day honours the children who never returned home from residential schools as well as the survivors and all of the families and communities impacted.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for the creation of a holiday as one of its ninety-four calls to action. September 30 was previously recognized as Orange Shirt Day before being elevated to a statutory public holiday, in 2021. Public commemoration of the tragic and horrific history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is an important part of the reconciliation process.
While not a provincial public holiday in Ontario, where The Walrus is headquartered, we recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a holiday, providing a paid day off for our team. This provides an opportunity to our staff, our partners, and our audience to take the time to learn more about residential schools as well as the current treatment of Indigenous communities, including the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S). We invite our community to take the time, not only on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation but throughout the year, to learn more about and from Indigenous communities.
Award-winning journalist Michelle Cyca is a contributing writer with The Walrus. She is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Treaty 6 and has written about a range of contemporary Indigenous issues, including:
Governor General’s Literary Award winner Darrel J. McLeod recently joined The Walrus board of directors. McLeod is a Cree writer from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta, well known for his memoirs on his childhood and youth: Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age and Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity. Look out for his first novel, A Season in Chezgh’un, which will be published this fall.
This year, we also introduced a new fellowship at The Walrus, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) Fellowship for Emerging Indigenous, Black, and Racialized Journalists. As its first recipient, we welcomed Indigenous journalist Colby Payne, who is working as a fact checker with the editorial team.
Julian Brave NoiseCat wrote the definitive profile of Canada’s first Inuk governor general, “Mary Simon Is Leading Indigenous Peoples to New Heights.” This story is available to read in Inuktitut and English. Also for the reading list: Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A Minor Chorus and Jessica Johns’s Bad Cree wowed the judges of the 2023 Amazon First Novel Awards, both recognized as finalists for the competitive annual award for first-time novelists.
Over the years, we have had the honour of working with many Indigenous writers and artists. The Walrus celebrates its 20th anniversary with a special issue this November featuring, among others, Robert Jago’s poignant 2017 story “Canada’s National Parks Are Colonial Crime Scenes” and a 2007 essay by Mary Simon, written over a decade before she became governor general, on how far behind Canada is in developing and investing in the North.
More recently, at The Walrus Talks Economic Reconciliation, speakers discussed how the private sector and government can support a brighter economic future for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Also this past spring, at The Walrus Talks at Home: Indigenous Health, speakers explored the support and investments needed to ensure Indigenous communities receive proper health care. Building on this work, we will be hosting The Walrus Leadership Dinner on Health Reconciliation in October.
A big thank you to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders and storytellers for your work with The Walrus as well as with Indspire, our national education partner.
At The Walrus, we recognize the power of words and hope they inspire us all to move from reconciliation to reconciliaction.
Residential school survivors can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and for more information on other health support (provided by the Government of Canada).
The Hope for Wellness Helpline is available to all Indigenous people across the country. Experienced and culturally competent counsellors are available on telephone and via online chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the toll-free helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat here (best on Google Chrome).