National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

by Kelsey Johansen


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its calls to action

There were 140 federally run residential schools in Canada that operated between 1867 and 1996. Survivors advocated for recognition and reparations and demanded accountability for the intergenerational impacts of harms caused. Their efforts culminated in:

  • the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement;

  • apologies by the government;

  • the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and,

  • the creation of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ran from 2008 to 2015 and provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the residential schools policy with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences. The Commission released its final report detailing 94 calls to action. Many of the Calls to Action from the TRC have specific relevance to land management and trails. You can read more about which ones in the Trail Research Hub's Territorial Acknowledgement and Commitment to Reconciliation.


The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a direct response to Call to Action 80, which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration. This National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we encourage you to explore the rich and diverse cultures, voices, experiences and stories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in the places you undertake and / or support trail-based recreation and tourism and land stewardship.


Every Child Matters and Orange Shirt Day

Both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day take place on September 30. Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013; as such it pre-dates the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which was formally declared a federal statutory holiday through statutory amendments made by Parliament on June 3rd, 2021.


Orange Shirt Day was the vision of Esketemc (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins, who is a former St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School student. It brought together former students and their families from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, Southern Dakelh and St’at’imc Nations along with the Cariboo Regional District, the Mayors and municipalities, School Districts and civic organizations in the Cariboo Region of British Columbia.


The date was chosen because it is the same time of year when Indigenous children were taken from their homes to residential schools, and because it is an opportunity to set the stage for contemporary anti-racism and anti-bullying policies for the upcoming school year. It is also an opportunity for Canadians to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come, and to commit to undertaking the important learning journeys which form the basis of reconciliation.

Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to open dialogue on all aspects of Canada's Residential Schools and to create meaningful discussion about their intergenerational effects and adverse legacy. It is also a day to reaffirm to survivors that they matter, and that those affected by residential schools also matter. As such, Orange Shirt Day affirms that Every Child Matters, even if they are now an adult.


You can learn more about Orange Shirt Day, including the story behind its name, and explore the various grassroots projects and learning events associated with it today, by visiting: www.orangeshirtday.org. Additionally, you can access curriculum documents, resources, and recommended readings at: https://www.orangeshirtday.org/resources.html.


Trails and Reconciliation

Reconciliation is about education, truth, acknowledgement, and restoration. Trails, and their accompanying infrastructure, provide an opportunity both symbolically and educationally, for reconciliation through the intercultural understandings they can foster, the educational opportunities they provide, and the moments of reflection they create.

Trail development also provides meaningful opportunities for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and communities to restore, and reaffirm, their sovereignty over and stewardship of traditional territories and lands, while providing meaningful connections to places and spaces where traditional activities can be practiced, including the sharing of land-based and oral inter-generational teachings and learnings.

Today, and every day, ​we invite you to be present and to think about how you can support the process of reconciliation as a member of the Canadian trails sector, as well as through your own trail-based recreation and tourism engagement.


What You Can Do as a Trail Organization

As a trail organizations, here are somethings that you can do to move reconciliation efforts forward:


1. Commit to an organizational learning journey:

  1. Learn about the traditional custodians of the lands your organization currently stewards and work to foster meaningful relationships with them;

  2. Provide educational opportunities for Board members, staff and volunteers; and,

  3. Commit to undertaking the learning journey as an organization, without expecting or asking Indigenous communities, stakeholders, organizations, and individuals to do the work for you.

2. Foster meaningful local relationships, and develop Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) with relevant communities and stakeholders:

  1. Engage Indigenous stakeholders by extending appropriate and cultural respectful invitations to equity seeking groups, including but not limited to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, and other Indigenous stakeholder organizations, to sit on standing committees and your Board of Directors; and,

  2. Consider developing a regionally appropriate tool kit on working with local communities in a good way. The Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia has an excellent such resource. You can access it here where they also speak about the process through which it was developed.

3. Engage Indigenous Trail Builders, and Trail User groups in building, stewarding, and using the trails your organization manages / operates

  1. Work with groups such as Wikwemikong Trail Development Services, a branch of Wikwemikong Tourism, located on Manitoulin Island (Ontario), that in addition to offering trail-based learning journey about their community's experiences of colonization and reconciliation and providing cultural learning experiences, has specialized in planning, designing and building non-motorized trail systems for First Nations and municipalities since 2010; and,

  2. When undertaking trails master planning, and signage planning, look for ways to actively involve local Indigenous communities in creating trail plans that respect traditional and abiding uses, communicate the relationships of local First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities with the land in a respectful way, and including this, as well as territorial acknowledgements, on your trailhead and interpretative signage. For example, in partnership with members of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations’ (MCFN) Department of Accommodation and Consultation (DOCA) whose treaty lands and territory includes the Credit River Watershed, Credit Valley Conservation (Mississauga, Ontario) has moved to include territorial acknowledgements on their trailhead signs, including those pictured below at the Cheltenham Badlands, a popular tourist attraction and an access point for the Bruce Trail in Caledon (Ontario).

Cheltenham Badlands Trails Signage with Territorial Acknowledgement - Credit Valley Conservation

4. Critically reflect on who attends your events, and uses the trails and lands you steward - consider what this might say about the culture of your trail organization, and extend appropriate invitations to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, and Indigenous stakeholder organizations to determine how best to engage members of these communities and organizations to create spaces and places which are welcoming and inclusive.

  1. You can also learn more about decolonizing outdoor spaces in this webinar recording from the Wilderness Committee, available here.

The Hub's Commitment

The Trail Research Hub respectfully acknowledges and recognizes the relationship that the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit People of Turtle Island have with the lands now known as Canada.


While the work of the Trail Research Hub spans all of Canada, we are headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, which is located on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnaabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

The treaties that speak most to the land the city of Toronto occupies are Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit in 1805, and the Williams Treaties of 1923 signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands. Additionally, this territory is covered by the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Nations) and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) to peaceably share and care for the lands around the Great Lakes and reflects the principles that were given to the Haudenosaunee by the Peacemaker in the Kaienerekowa (Great Law of Peace).


The Trail Research Hub offers this Territorial Acknowledgement to reaffirm our commitment to, and responsibility in, improving relationships between nations and to improving our collective understanding of Indigenous peoples and their cultures.

From coast to coast to coast, the Trail Research Hub acknowledges the ancestral, unceded, and abiding territories of all the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people that call Turtle Island home. The Trail Research Hub recognizes the many Nations of Indigenous People who presently live on this land, those who have spent time here, and the ancestors who have hunted and gathered on this land, known as Turtle Island.

We are all treaty people, with our own set of rights and responsibilities, and treaties are a foundational part of our society. The existence of treaties, such as these, are proof that the first colonizing settlers of what is now known as Canada acknowledged Indigenous Nations as sovereign peoples and negotiated with them Nation to Nation.


The Trail Research Hub's work is governed by the principles: share, foster, and create. This includes sharing in the responsibility to move reconciliation efforts forward, fostering intercultural understanding and respect, and creating opportunities for everyone to benefit from trails, including supporting trails as opportunities to learn about Indigenous persons' and communities' experiences of colonization.

This also means being open to receiving guidance from the communities with whom we work, including how to build collaborative relationships with Indigenous groups in the right way and as they actively work to address issues of land sovereignty, develop opportunities for economic development through trail-based tourism and recreation projects, and connect with the land, culture and each other, through land- and trail-based experiences.


We recognize that our Hub Team members, Friends of the Hub organizations, and Community Collaborators all live, work, and recreate in different places which often are located on different Indigenous traditional and abiding territories from the Hub's headquarters, and commit to working with these communities in a good way, to working to improve our understanding of the unique cultural and lived histories of these peoples and places, including experiences of colonization, and to do so in a way that actively engages with the spirit and intention of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)'s 94 Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Learn More

By working to understand the colonial history of Canada, we can renew our relationships with each other and move towards mutual understanding, respect, reciprocity, and meaningful reconciliation. You can learn more about the people, territories and treaties of the lands that you live, work, and recreate on by visiting: www.native-land.ca or www.whose.land/en/.

Get In Touch

If you would like to learn more about the Trail Research Hub's commitment to learning and reconciliation, please visit https://www.trailresearchhub.com/territorial-acknowledgement or reach out to us at: info@trailresearchhub.com to discuss collaboration opportunities.

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