Canada’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity to reflect on the past and shape the future

By Kathleen Wood | September 30th 2022

Canada’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity to reflect on the past and shape the future. The day, along with Orange Shirt Day – which are both observed on Sept. 30 – acknowledges our painful history with Indigenous people, especially as it pertains to the ongoing impacts of residential schools that were funded by the Canadian government from the mid-1800s to 1996. The schools, operated by religious organizations, forbade children to speak their own languages and forced them to assimilate into Canadian culture. Thousands never returned to their families and unmarked graves of children who died while attending the schools are actively being recovered across Canada.

This is the second annual National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and the ninth annual observance of Orange Shirt Day, so named because a then 6-year-old girl was stripped of her clothing, including her new orange shirt – which she never got back – on the first day of residential school in 1973.

Observing the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is important from a Canadian perspective because we have gone decades without understanding our shared history. Non-Indigenous people were often not taught about residential schools, which has left a lasting impact on all Canadians. The day is also important from a business perspective. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report with 94 recommendations. Among them is Call to Action 92, which urges corporations and businesses to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation standards.

Hatch works with clients across many different industries who are working to put Call to Action 92 into practice with the establishment of meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities, businesses, and organizations. For us, following recommendation 92 is more than just a regulatory checkbox. It is the right thing to do.

We encourage clients to work closely with Indigenous communities, businesses, and organizations, because projects are more successful when actions are jointly discussed and advanced between parties.

The Community Engagement and Social Performance practice can highlight two projects that serve as good examples of how inclusiveness and mutual respect can be advantageous for clients and Indigenous communities:

Stony Point Housing Project – Through utilizing a community-led approach that focused on listening to the needs of the Stoney Point First Nation community, in Ontario, Canada, we were able to help improve unsafe living conditions by relocating 19 families to new homes. The engagement approach was tailored to ensure each community member was represented and heard throughout the implementation of the project. This holistic approach respectfully addressed the emotional needs of the community and ensured the cultural values and vison of the community was represented in the project outcomes. The project team recognized the community had the answers and the vision; our job was to listen and implement their vision

Jansen Project – Hatch was instrumental in developing the local supply chain, capabilities, and capacities of local and Indigenous businesses involved in a joint venture with BHP Jansen on the construction of the largest potash mine in the world. In supporting the development of a framework and strategy for a local buying program, the project can advance economic reconciliation with impacted Indigenous communities by creating long-term and meaningful opportunities for Indigenous business participation.

In the past, clients often engaged Indigenous communities to satisfy regulatory requirements. Today, we’re seeing a real shift in what engagement means. Indigenous people have their own goals, visions, and hopes for their communities. They don’t need to be told what to do. If clients are serious about consulting with, and including, Indigenous people and communities, they need to establish respect, communication, and relationships.

Indigenous people today, including the survivors of residential schools and their descendants, have bravely shared the trauma they and their loved ones have endured. Reconciliation is the responsibility of all Canadians, and it is important we take the time and effort in understanding our history. The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation gives us all an opportunity to reflect on, and learn from, our shared past to ensure a better future for all.

Officially we observe it once a year. Ideally, we should live it every day.

For additional information about Indigenous people and their communities we suggest the following book list:

  • Indigenomics by Carol Anne Hilton
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
  • In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • Up Ghost River by Edmund Metatwabin with Alexandra Shimo
  • With Our Orange Hearts by Phyllis Webstad (Children’s book)
  • Stolen Words by Melanie Florence (Children’s book)
  • When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson (Children’s book)