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'Actively working to understand my own complicity:' Here's how OISE community members are honouring the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

By Perry King 

September 30, 2021 

OISE community member wearing an orange face mask that reads Every Child Matters.

On the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, OISE alum Gary Pieters, a school principal and human rights commissioner, will be participating in virtual and in-person events, and taking a stance of continuous listening to the voices of Indigenous Peoples. 

On this September 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, our communities are reflecting the urgent need for reconciliation, and the history of colonialism and genocide of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Mark today with a gift to the Olive Moxam Indigenous Bursary
 and support Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit), Black Indigenous and Taino students at OISE.

We asked members of our community how they are marking and honouring this day, and here’s what they said.

Diana Burchell

Doctoral Candidate, department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

As a white settler who has directly benefited from the theft of Indigenous land and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, I've booked most of the day off to learn, to bear witness, and to act. 

Overall, I plan to spend the day listening, supporting indigenous organizations, and actively working to understand my own complicity in the systemic issues facing Indigenous Peoples.

I’ll be engaging with resources like Indigenous Watch Dog and the NCTR. For example, Indigenous Watch Dog recommends three ways to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

As another example, a colleague sent me the book Decolonizing Mental Health: Embracing Indigenous Multi-Dimensional Balance. I’m hoping to spend part of the day reading this book to better understand indigenous approaches to mental health. 

Furthermore, as a French as a Second Language educator, I'm hoping to help disseminate resources that can be used in the classroom to talk about Truth and Reconciliation. See examples here and here.

I follow @GiveOneDaysPay on Twitter, which is a group asking us to donate one day’s pay to Indigenous not-for-profit organizations. This is one of the ways I’ll be acting. I also plan to uplift movements like this within my circles.

Gary Pieters

Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner
OISE alumni, Bachelor of Education, Master of Education

I will be participating in virtual and in-person events, and taking a stance of continuous listening to the voices of Indigenous Peoples on the destructive legacies of colonization and actions to foster, truth and reconciliation in Canada and around the world.

In education, it is important that the curriculum bring to life the lived realities of Indigenous Peoples through place making and recognition of the various treaties and their importance. Land acknowledgements must be accompanied by reflections and actions to foster healing.

The curriculum needs to be reflective of First Nations, Metis and Inuit experiences and this should be embedded from Kindergarten to Post-Secondary, so that everyone develops an understanding of Indigenous Peoples and the perspectives, roots, music, philosophies and traditions and stories that are important to drive action towards truth and reconciliation.

Normand Labrie

OISE Interim Dean
Professor, department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

This day is one of reflection, recognizing that Canadian institutions, including educational ones, have played a harmful role in shaping the lives of Indigenous Peoples—including our role in the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and the harm caused by the residential school system, to say the very least. I will be spending my day listening and learning about this history, and speaking with my peers about what this means for our work at OISE.

Such reflection is important, but I also want to take action. This week, I announced to the OISE community, with the help of my leadership team, that we are committing to increase levels of emergency bursary supports for Indigenous students for this academic year. This is a part of our continued efforts to support reconciliation.

Athena Tassis

Research Assistant, Centre for Teaching and Learning department, U of T Scarborough
OISE alumna, Master of Teaching

Today we all reflect, mourn and remember those who have been impacted, and those who continue to heal from the effects of residential schools. As someone whose ancestors are not Indigenous to Turtle Island, I see it necessary for us to amplify and listen to Indigenous voices, as part of taking action toward truth and reconciliation.

Today, I will be taking the time to join Hart House’s virtual event, Orange Shirt Day 2021 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I look forward to hearing from poet, author and Order of Canada recipient, Lee Maracle.

Every day should be a day of remembrance, as we are settlers here. I encourage you to support Indigenous artists, authors and businesses. We must acknowledge our past but also celebrate the strong Indigenous voices making an impact each and every day. 

Charles Pascal

Professor, department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

Today, is another opportunity for me to listen and learn from the elders and other Indigenous mentors in my life about how I can better support and lead where possible, implementing #62 to #65 of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission’s Calls to Action that deal directly with education.

I will be sitting in on Indigenous-led virtual circles as part of my quest to be the best ally possible. As an aside, it pains me to witness performative behaviour on the part of the Ontario government that fails to declare today a statutory holiday.

More OISE news

Professor Jennifer Brant on how Canadians can mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Self-determining, emergent, and responsive: OISE establishes new Indigenous Educational Research Centre

‘A slow death by amendment’: OISE faculty’s book takes an intersectional lens to the Indian Act