‘Moral responsibility’: Smiths Falls to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with several events

The Town of Smiths Falls will hold several events for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. – Town of Smiths Falls photo

Over the coming days, Town of Smiths Falls will recognize the cause of Truth and Reconciliation with several different events.

On Sept. 11, 2023, Mayor Shawn Pankow officially designated Sept. 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day. In observance of this significant occasion, the following events and gestures of solidarity are planned:

  1. Water tower Illumination: The Town of Smiths Falls’ iconic water tower will be bathed in orange light from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2
  2. Survivors’ Flag: The Survivors’ Flag will be raised at Lower Reach Park during the same period as a symbol of remembrance and respect
  3. Community Sunset Ceremony: On Sept. 30, the town will host a Community Sunset Ceremony to honour the day. This event will serve as an opportunity for the community to come together and reflect on the history and ongoing impacts of residential schools

“We acknowledge the traumatic history that Indigenous people in our nation have suffered and as Canadians, we all have a moral responsibility to enhance our understanding and our commitment to reconciliation,” said Mayor Shawn Pankow. “While truth and reconciliation is an all year commitment for us, we are honoured to be able to gather with the Indigenous community on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to publicly commemorate the painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools.”

The Community Sunset Ceremony will commence at Centennial Park on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7:15 p.m. A community walk to Duck Island, guided by Indigenous drumming from Betty Lou Kempt of the Métis Nation, will be a centrepiece of the evening. Glow sticks will be distributed to illuminate the walk, symbolizing unity and hope. Activities at Duck Island will include smudging by Francine Desjardins, a land acknowledgment and opening remarks by Mayor Shawn Pankow.

The event will feature guest speakers who will share their perspectives and experiences related to residential schools. Tim Bisaillon, a descendant of residential school survivors from the Indigenous community, will provide insight into his personal journey. Additionally, Bernard Nelson, a Residential School Survivor of the Pelican Lake Indian Residential School in Sioux Lookout, ON, will share his wisdom and experiences. Bernard is deeply connected to his Cree and Ojibway ancestry and is involved in various cultural and educational initiatives.

The ceremony will conclude with a touching performance by Smiths Falls’ own Flora Riley, who will present her newly recorded song titled “Our Indigenous Children.” Copies of the song will be available for purchase at the event for $10 each.

All members of the community and guests are warmly invited to participate in these events as a show of support for the Indigenous community in Smiths Falls and across Canada.

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