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Hundreds expected for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation events in Whitehorse

Procession will start at the Healing Totem
Hundreds of people gathered at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Sept. 30 for an event recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2022. (Yukon News file)

Events marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 will take place at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC).

Each year on Sept. 30 across Canada, ceremonies and events are held across the country to honour and remember victims of the residential schools — a system that removed 150,000 children from their families and led to loss of Indigenous identity, language, and culture.

The Council of Yukon First Nation (CYFN) will host a series of events to mark the day, including a march starting at 11 a.m. from the Healing Totem on Front Street to the KDCC. Events at the KDCC will begin at noon at the fire pit.

Residential school survivors and family members are invited to lead the march. Clinical counsellors and cultural support staff will be on hand throughout the day to provide support to participants.

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the event will welcome the Walking Warriors, a group formed in 2021 to honour children who died at residential schools across Canada. The group had their first walk the same year, covering 2,100 kilometres from Whitehorse to Kamloops, B.C. This year, they are walking from Dawson City to Whitehorse.

A community drumming circle, community arts projects and updates on work done on the search at the former Chooutla School will be available. Located in Carcross, the former residential school operated from 1903 to 1969.

CYFN executive director Shadelle Chambers said CYFN is partnering with the Walking Warriors and the Yukon Residential Schools Missing Children Project, an initiative dedicated to locating children who went missing from residential schools within the Yukon.

Other partners include Know History, a historical research firm specialized in archival research and documentation of the past — ensuring that history is interpreted with respect, and the Northern Nations Alliance, a nonprofit honouring children from the residential school system.

Last year, the territorial government announced Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday to allow people to participate in events marking the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This year is the first time the statutory holiday will be observed in the territory.

Chambers told the News CYFN is expecting hundreds to turn up for the march, which enters its third year. In the first year, she said more than 300 people participated.

“We hope to continue to raise awareness on the day,” she said. “Coming together as a community and family members is really needed during this time. So, we are expecting to see hundreds of people attending.”

Chambers said the City of Whitehorse will be supporting the procession. The city announced it is temporarily closing Main Street and Second Avenue on Sept. 30, to support the procession to honour those impacted by residential schools.

Bylaw services will provide traffic control and barriers at intersections along the route, the city said in a statement. It encouraged drivers to drive with care, reduce speed and follow traffic controllers and signage. Per the statement, buses will also be re-routed along Fourth Avenue.

The residential school system, established in the 1800s, was designed to educate and religiously convert Indigenous children and assimilate them into white Canadian society. Many children, who never returned back to their families, were sexually, physically and psychologically abused by priests and other administrators during their stay at the residential schools. More than 3,000 children died.

The federal government has been trying to take actions in remembering victims of the residential school system. In 2007, it began implementing the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement — the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. One step was to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 2021, the federal government declared Sept. 30 as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, a federal holiday intended to honour the victims and survivors of the residential schools. In addition to memorials and seminars, Canadians are encouraged to wear orange shirts — a symbol that every child matters. Many schools host Orange Shirt Days at the end of September to recognize residential school victims and survivors.

Joy O’Brien is the Missing and Murderd Indigenous Women outreach coordinator at the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council (YAWC). She said the group is supporting the initiatives of the CYFN, including handing out orange pins, through their adult residency program, to people who want to come and show their solidarity.

O’Brien attended residential school for 11 years. She said the day is important in remembering those impacted by the residential school system and it means that education and awareness is being made available across Canada and in the Yukon.

“This is very important because it helps people to understand the atrocities that were committed against Indigenous people,” she said. ““It helps people to have compassion and empathy for those who still battle the trauma.”

Chambers said the day is very important to Yukon First Nations and Indigenous people across the country, but also for Yukoners and non-Indigenous people to learn and understand the history in the territory and how it impacts all people.

“It’s all about bringing awareness and understanding and coming together as a community for support,” she said.

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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