Recognizing a Tragic History

Manjit Sing

Toronto Police Service members raised Every Child Matters flag at police headquarters on September 30 to mark National Truth & Reconciliation Day.

Orange is worn to honour all residential school survivors, their families and communities along with the children who never returned one.

Chief James Ramer said public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

“Today is an opportunity to further reflect on the tragic history of residential schools and to recognize the ongoing impacts that Indigenous peoples and communities continue to experience to this day,” said Chief James Ramer. “As a policing organization, we must take this opportunity to learn, to reflect and to act. Like the Orange Cranes hanging in our lobby, the Orange Shirts worn by many today are to remind us of the children who were tragically taken from their families and never given the chance to embrace their Indigenous culture.”

An installation of paper cranes symbolizing residential school victims and survivors was unveiled at police headquarters on September 23. Handmade by members of the Indigenous community, it is titled Debwewin, which is the Ojibway word for truth. One of seven original Clans, the Crane represents wisdom and equal communication for all Anishinaabe.

“It is a dark and shameful part of our history in Canada and one that we must recognize in order to advance reconciliation and strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples,” said Ramer. “By educating ourselves and our young people, we can truly embrace the meaning of Truth and Reconciliation and ensure the terrible repercussions of Residential Schools is never forgotten.”

An essential part of that education, stressed Ramer, is to become familiar with the critical work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the calls to action related to justice.

A close up of a police officer bowing his head
Chief James Ramer taking part in a moment of silence on National Truth and ReconciliationPhoto: Kevin Masterman

He said the Service is working with the City of Toronto on its Reconciliation Action Plan and will be acting on those recommendations.

“I invite our members and the public to take their time to learn and to gain a deeper understanding of Indigenous peoples and their experiences and perspectives,” the Chief added. “As a policing community, we must continue to listen, learn and take action to address systemic racism and build stronger bonds of truth with Indigenous peoples.”

Inspector Andy Ecklund, the Equity, Inclusion and Human Rights Unit Acting Unit Commander, welcomed those gathered for the flag raising and made a land acknowledgment.

“This day was meant to remind us to reflect on the meaning of truth and reconciliation and understand the impact of the ongoing investigation into the unmarked graves and the legacy of the Indian Residential School System in Canada,” said Ecklund, who was joined in raising the Every Child Matters flag with Chief Ramer and Toronto Police Services Board Executive Director Ryan Teschner.

A moment of silence was observed for 139 seconds to mark each of the 139 Residential Schools in Canada.

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