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'Be allies for change': Newmarket leaders reflect on first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Politicians, organizations commit to addressing the injustices of residential school system
2021-09-30-Newmarket Truth and Reconciliation-JQ
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor speaks about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in a video taped outside a new art installation.

Newmarket organizations and political leaders spoke about the need to reflect and address injustices against Indigenous peoples on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept. 30.

People across the country are commemorating the federal statutory holiday to recognize the impact of residential schools on Indigenous people, as well as celebrate Indigenous culture. Members of organizations throughout York Region are wearing orange shirts and holding events to recognize the national first.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor released a video ahead of the day and asked residents to be a part of truth and reconciliation.

“This is a job and a task for all of us. The Town of Newmarket is deeply committed to that work, and I am personally and individually committed,” he said. “We have to think about reconciliation, and we have to think about how we do better in the relationship with the Indigenous people in our communities.”

The holiday was established by the federal government this year soon after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school site by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation near Kamloops in May. Similar findings have been made at several former residential school sites across the country.

Recently re-elected Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen said he cannot imagine the anguish, pain and hatred that Indigenous families went through as children were taken from their homes to residential schools.

“Public commemoration of the painful history, and ongoing impacts of residential schools, is a vital component of the reconciliation process. I encourage all Canadians to show their support and respect in honouring the Indigenous children who were taken from their families and sent to these schools,” he said.

York Region is taking the day to reflect, closing many of its municipal buildings and services for the day. Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson said the discovery of the graves is a shameful reminder of the systematic racism, discrimination and injustice Indigenous people have faced and continue to face.

“Collectively, we share the responsibility to learn more about the impacts of residential schools and become allies for change so we can all move forward on the path to healing and reconciliation,” Emmerson said. “York Region and York Regional Council remain committed to creating welcoming and inclusive communities by learning from the mistakes of the past. Alongside the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, on whose traditional territory we reside, York Region continues to learn more, do more and be allies for change.”

Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Eliott said it is a day to recognize residential school survivors and their families. The last residential school closed in 1996.

“Today, we honour the survivors and acknowledge the long-lasting legacy of residential schools still felt in Canada today,” she said.

Other local organizations ranging from school boards to businesses to health-care agencies are also recognizing the occasion. “Today, we pause to remember, reflect and learn as we recognize the tragic history and long-standing effects of residential schools,” Southlake Regional Health Centre said

"Reconciliation includes deepening our knowledge of past and continuing injustices.," the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce said. "We commit to ongoing education, reflection and promoting economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."


Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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