Truth & Reconcilitation

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30)

Truth & Reconciliation

On September 30, 2023, Canadians will mark the 3rd National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This important day recognizes the genocide that Canada perpetrated against its Indigenous population by removing generations of Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in Church-run residential schools. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, commonly known as Orange Shirt Day, is a day we dedicate to learning about past and ongoing atrocities that are the result of settler-colonialism, honouring Survivors and intergenerational Survivors in our communities, and revisiting our commitments to inscribe the values of reconciliation both into our personal lives and into our work. 

While the observances of September 30th officially commemorate the residential school system, the government policy that persisted from the late 1800s until 1996, the state-sanctioned displacement, maltreatment of, and assimilation of Indigenous children into settler society continues through the child welfare system, where there are more Indigenous children in care now than there were children in residential schools, at their height of operations. As we reflect on the shape-shifting nature of these violent colonizing interventions, it follows that Abilities Manitoba would take a look inwards towards the history of intellectual disability in our province and acknowledge the colonial thread that runs from this past into our work in the present.

 beaded orange shirt necklaceOne of the lesser-discussed issues in the wake of deinstitutionalization is the role that intellectual and developmental disability institutions had in colonizing Indigenous peoples. We know from survivor testimony that residential schools would occasionally send their “trouble-maker” students to the institutions, and that whatever children were sent to these institutions also experienced the trauma of having their connections to land, language and kinship severed from them (Freeman et al. 2022). While these institutions were not named in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, it is undeniable that the institutions’ goals of removing individuals labelled away with IDD from mainstream society aligned with the colonial agenda of the residential schools. As much as we’d like to think of the community living sector as being relatively uninfluenced by colonizing agendas, this is not true. The lack of support agencies in proximity to remote Indigenous communities continues to be a factor that forces Indigenous individuals to leave their communities. As recently as 2020, a study detailed how placement programs that force Indigenous individuals with intellectual disabilities to match with faraway service agencies continue to replicate colonial power dynamics and violence, the very same forces of injustice that we promise to commemorate every September 30th (McKee & Hillier 2020).

This Orange Shirt Day, in addition to wearing an orange shirt purchased from an Indigenous artist, we encourage you to join us in reflecting on how we can make engaging with our sector culturally safer for our Indigenous neighbours.

Here are 3 resources to kick-start your learning:

  • "Aging Matters: Indigenous Perspectives" is a three-part recorded webinar series presented by Surrey Place. Centering Indigenous voices and practitioners, the series discusses the unique challenges that face aging Indigenous people who have developmental disabilities, as well as the best practices for engaging with this part of our population.
  • "100 Calls to ReconciliACTION!" (DOCX) This document provides 100 amazing starting points to begin learning (and un-learning) about Indigenous issues, activism, injustices and achievements through social media, music, books, events, and Google searches. This is a wonderful reference that you can return to multiple times, at any time of year. Consider taking up a couple of these calls with your loved ones this weekend, or sharing them with your colleagues. 
  • Community Living BC's Anti-Racist Cultural Safety Policy (PDF) is an excellent and rigorous policy that incorporates a wide variety of sources including international rights legislation, person-centred planning, decolonizing thinkers, and TRC Calls to Action to imagine the best way to administer care to Indigenous people who receive supports. Effective September 22 as a mandatory framework for CLBC-funded services, the policy appendix also includes references to a primer on relevant Indigenous terminology and to Indigenous peoples’ rights within international law. 

As a small organization staffed completely by settlers, Abilities Manitoba has a long way to go in its reconciliation learning journey. We plan on creating and maintaining a hub full of Indigenous resources pertaining to our sector, so we can share our learning journey with our member organizations. This hub is expected to be published October 2023. 



Freeman, V., Oshkabewisens, J., Clayton, J., & Fletcher, R. (2022). STAGING SURVIVANCE: INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY, DE-INSTITUTIONALIZATION, AND DECOLONIAL ARTS EDUCATION. Research in Arts and Education, 2022(3).

McKee, A., & Hillier, S. A.. (2020). Northwest Territories Residential Southern Placement Program: Dislocation and Colonization through ‘Care.’ International Journal of Indigenous Health, 15(1), pp. 34-47.