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All Burnaby school trustees to give one day's pay for Truth and Reconciliation Day

Trustee Bill Brassington challenges other B.C. school boards to do the same
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Grade 10 student Sarah Leung paints an Orange Shirt Day display on the doors of Burnaby Mountain Secondary in preparation for Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday.

“Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out.”

Those oft quoted words, attributed to Truth and Reconciliation Commission former chair Justice Murray Sinclair, were cited again by Burnaby’s school board chair Tuesday night ahead of Orange Shirt Day and Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Thursday.

“Education plays a critical role in reconciliation and developing a culturally safe learning environment for youth and families,” chair Jen Mezei said in a report. “I’m proud of the work done along this path by the Burnaby Board of Education and district and school staff but also recognize there’s still so much to do.”

This week, local students will take part in school and classroom activities designed to build a better understanding of Canada’s “horrific legacy” of residential schools, the healing journey of survivors and their families, and the history of how Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation came about, Mezei said.

Flags at all schools will fly at half-mast all this week to mark Truth and Reconciliation Week; and the school district’s Indigenous education team has shared resources, like workshops, activities and speakers,  to support local schools.

“It’s very powerful to have schools engaging during the week and throughout the year. There’s a real desire to be part of the learning and strengthening of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples," district principal of Indigenous education Rob Smyth said. "It is also a really special year with the addition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation providing time for everyone in our school communities to acknowledge and reflect.”

All of Burnaby’s trustees have also joined the One Day’s Pay campaign, which encourages Canadians to give one day’s wages to support Indigenous projects, movements, organizations and nations by Sept. 30.

Trustee Bill Brassington challenged other school boards around the province to do the same.

“I hope they do,” he said. “It’s but one step towards reconciliation.”

While the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will provide schools with a way to “ground the start of the school year” in the shared history of settlers and Indigenous people in Canada, Mezei said the work has to continue throughout the year as well.

“There are no shortcuts when it comes to Truth and Reconciliation. We are forced to go the distance,” said Mezei, once again quoting Justice Murray to end her report.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor