In June of this year, the federal government passed legislation to mark September 30, 2021 as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Earlier this month, the Province of BC followed suit recognizing this as a day of commemoration in the public sector. UBC will be observing this day as a holiday on both campuses and our distributed learning sites. Classes will be cancelled and university employees who are normally entitled to provincial and federal holidays will receive this day off.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is designated as an opportunity to ‘recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.’ It was originally proposed in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which under Action 80 called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish a statutory holiday “to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” 

You may already be aware that September 30 has been observed since 2013 as Orange Shirt Day, a movement to recognize the colonial legacy of residential schools and commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. Orange Shirt Day recalls the experience of residential school Survivor Phyllis Webstad, who at six was stripped of her shiny new orange shirt on her first day attending the St. Joseph Mission Residential School near Williams Lake, BC. The date of September 30 was chosen because it was the time of year when Indigenous children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools. 

UBC is committed to advancing Indigenous human rights through truth and reconciliation. The 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan represents a university-wide response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. It also represents the UBC Vancouver campus’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. In 2019, UBC Okanagan published a public declaration of five commitments in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

I want to encourage all members of the UBC community to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, whether through personal reflection, education and awareness activities, or by participating in Orange Shirt Day or other events within your communities.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor

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