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National Day of Truth and Reconciliation an 'opportunity to learn,' says local Indigenous leader

Donna Dubie, the executive director of The Healing of the Seven Generations, speaks about what truth and reconciliation means to her
Donna Dubie, executive director of The Healing of the Seven Generations First Peoples centre in Kitchener, stands with member Jijanhdah, aka Kelly Curley, among the growing tributes offered in memory of the 215 children found at the Kamloops Residential School inemc Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation last week.

With the arrival of Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation holiday, we sat down to speak with Donna Dubie, the executive director of The Healing of the Seven Generations, an organization in Kitchener that works with individuals and families suffering the impacts of residential schools, to ask what the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation means to her.

Are you disappointed that the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation isn't a stat holiday?

Oh, I'm absolutely disappointed, I believe that the current provincial government did not approve of the 30th of September to be a provincial holiday, which disrespects our community and shows a lack of understanding of Indigenous issues.

How do you think people should celebrate and acknowledge the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation? What are some of the actionable items that people can do?

I think it is very important to preserve the day and it's an opportunity to develop protocols that will respect Sept. 30th. I think that we should have this as an annual day to honour the children's remains that have been found at residential school sites. We should be praying for these children every single day, that they travel to the spirit world to be with the creator and their family. It's an opportunity for mainstream people to educate themselves on the tragedies that happened through residential schools, and to have a meaningful understanding of the survivors of residential schools and their families.

What does truth and reconciliation mean to you?

It means having an understanding of our people, our communities, our ways of being and being able to work alongside us, not leaving us behind like the way things have been in the past. Sept. 30th is a day to show unity for all people. It's an opportunity to bridge the gap between Canadians and First Peoples. It's an opportunity to embrace diversity and promote equality, and it's an opportunity to have a conversation.

How does the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation fit into some of the larger demands of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada?

I think that truth and reconciliation taps into almost every single system that we have out there. It taps into the child welfare system. It taps into the health-care system, the justice system, the housing and education system, every single system that we have in there. But each one of those systems are governed and they're controlled by a specific level of government, whether it's provincial or federal. And at the end of the day, it's the government itself that has to comply with the truth and reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.

Some of the news coverage around children being found at residential schools has slowed down. What steps do you think the government needs to take when it comes to this issue?

I'd like to see them following through on the promises that they created with our people way back, hundreds of years ago, start following through on some of those promises. I would like to see the federal government and the provincial government fund Native organizations to the best of their ability. We get only two-thirds of the same amount of funding that they would fund a mainstream organization.

I think right now, one of the biggest things that we're facing in this community is the fact that we have been requesting help from the region and the city in trying to find a bigger building, and it seems to fall on deaf ears. So I would like to see more movement in that regard so that once we have a bigger building, then we can provide the best programs for our community members. I would love to see that happen as well.