2021.10.01

Megan and I have started a new habit of checking in every Thursday, keeping each other company as we work, and planning upcoming projects. Except this week, Thursday was a holiday in Canada, so we did our check-in on Wednesday night.

That had me thinking Wednesday was Thursday, Thursday was the weekend, and I missed sending you a letter.

Today, I want to tell you about what September 30th means in Canada.

(Content warning: this letter contains mentions of child abuse and death)

For years now, Orange Shirt Day has been observed in public schools. Inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s experience in a residential school, the day educates elementary school kids about a history that I didn’t learn until I was an adult. Residential schools were administered by the Canadian government and the Catholic church, and their purpose was to assimilate Indigenous people. Children were forcibly taken from their families. They were tortured and mistreated. Some escaped. Thousands never came home. The last such school was closed in the mid-1990s.

In May, after receiving funding for ground-penetrating radar, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation located the bodies of 215 children under a former residential school. That was only the first announcement of the summer. To date, more than 5,000 bodies have been recovered.

This summer in Canada is parallel to last summer in the US. None of these truths are new, only louder.

In response, the federal government has designated Orange Shirt Day as an official holiday, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. You can honour this day by learning the history of the land where you live. Angela Sterritt has a giant, year-long Twitter thread of Indigenous artists. Buy some art, read Indigenous writers, and give directly to the people who need it: here’s a thread. This year, I’ve been sending 10% of my income to The Caring Society, which works to protect Indigenous children and families.

Most importantly, don’t confine these actions to a single day. Look around your community and find the groups which need help. Most of them need money more than anything else. Reach out and use your privilege. Listen, then act.