The Anglican Church of Canada has provided worship and education resources to help Anglicans across the country mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR), often referred to as Orange Shirt Day.
Observed Sept. 30, the NDTR encourages Canadians to reflect on the history and intergenerational trauma of the Indian residential school system and to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The federal government inaugurated the first NDTR in 2021, shortly after the discovery of 200 suspected burial sites on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The NDTR resources commended for use across the church are available free online at the Anglican Church of Canada website. They include a 2023 statement by Archbishop and Primate Linda Nicholls and National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Chris Harper; prayers and collects for action; a reconciliation toolkit; and the church-produced documentary film Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts.
The primate and national Indigenous archbishop said the NDTR is commemorated so that Canadians “will never forget or cease to work for reconciliation.
“It is a journey of truth-telling and education that must peel away the decades of harm and the ongoing effects that deny Indigenous people respect and dignity as the first peoples of this land,” their statement continued.
“In the past year, we have continued to hear discoveries of unmarked burial sites at former residential schools that have reopened pain for families whose children never came home,” Nicholls and Harper said. “We grieve with those families.” They reiterated that the General Synod Archives are open to anyone seeking information that might help in finding lost burial records.
Anglicans, they said, recently joined a protest at the Prairie Green Landfill in Winnipeg to demand a full search for the remains of two missing Indigenous women, Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran. “Our voices join many others in Canada seeking justice and accountability,” the primate and national Indigenous archbishop said.
The archbishops said the Anglican Church of Canada is “walking alongside the Sacred Circle of Anglican Indigenous peoples as self-governance continues to be established” and highlighted its ongoing efforts to foster reconciliation through Indigenous-led healing projects, parish education on the history of residential schools and suicide prevention.
The church’s NDTR resources include a collection of reconciliation-themed prayers. The Remembering the Children Prayer was used during the 2008 multi-city Remembering the Children tour, undertaken by Indigenous and church leaders to promote the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Prayers for action include a collect from Indigenous Ministries written to accompany the Covenant of 1994, an Anglican Healing Fund prayer and propers for the National Indigenous Day of Prayer.
The reconciliation toolkit is itself a collection of Anglican resources that aim to continue the process of the TRC. It includes a historical sketch of Anglican-run residential schools, then primate Michael Peers’s 1993 apology for the Anglican Church of Canada’s role in the residential school system, further education materials and links to church partner and Indigenous organizations.
One of the church’s most high-profile educational resources is the Doctrine of Discovery film, produced by the church’s national office with support from the Anglican Foundation of Canada. The 67-minute documentary recounts the history of the doctrine used to justify European colonization in some parts of the Americas, by claiming that Indigenous territory was terra nullius or the property of no one.
Along with the church’s own resources, the Anglican Church of Canada website provides links to the Orange Shirt Society, a non-profit organization that works to lead and promote truth and reconciliation events for the NDTR; and details from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation on events taking place throughout Truth and Reconciliation Week from Sept. 25 to 30.
The date of the NDTR coincides with Orange Shirt Day, which began in 2013 and sought to raise awareness of the residential school system and its impacts by encouraging people to wear orange shirts as symbols of how the system tried to remove students’ Indigenous identities. Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad inspired Orange Shirt Day with her account of how, on her first day attending St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School, she had the new orange shirt her grandmother bought her taken away.