The NHL and its Canadian teams recognized National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
The day, which is a federal statutory holiday in Canada that was created on June 23, 2021, honors the children who were lost to and the survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. The residential school system was a network of boarding schools for Indigenous peoples that were in operation from 1894 to 1947. Funded by the Canadian government and run by Christian churches, the schools were intended to isolate Indigenous children from their culture and assimilate them. The number of Indigenous children that are estimated to have died at these schools is upwards of 30,000, mainly from tuberculosis.
The NHL released a statement recognizing the day. The National Hockey League Foundation is partnering with the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation and making a $15,000 donation to support small, community-based projects targeting Indigenous communities, survivor organizations, and memorial funds across Canada.
The Vancouver Canucks honored the victims and survivors on Monday before their first home preseason game against the Flames in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
“Tonight, we honour and remember all of the children who went to school and didn’t come home, as well as all of the other children and families who survived the atrocities of the residential school system as we begin recognizing National Truth & Reconcillation week at our first home preseason game,” Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini said. “We acknowledge the genocide of the Indigenous community and are committed to do more toward real truth and reconciliation.”
The Canucks players wore orange “Every Child Matters” shirts and used orange tape on their sticks for the game. During the pregame, there was a traditional land acknowledgement by Councillor Brenda Morgan from Matsqui First Nation and Sumas Chief Dalton Silver and moment of silence followed by a performance by Sto:lo Nation drummer, Johnny Williams (Xotxwes).
On Wednesday at the Canucks media availability, coach Travis Green addressed the day being recognized nationally and by the team.
“It’s terrible and sad what happened,” Green said. “I think it’s important. I’m happy that the Canucks are acknowledging it and what has happened. I think it’s also important that we don’t hide from it and people are aware of it and learn from it and somehow, maybe it helps people as well.”
When asked about Canucks players efforts to learn about residential schools and their impact, Green said it was encouraging to see people become more aware of the tragedies.
“I think there’s probably a lot of people that don’t know and I don’t think anyone can really know what happened and just the thought of it is hard to think about what did happen but it’s also important that we learn from it and grow from it but still understand how terrible it is.”
The Flames wore special orange jerseys during their morning skate on Wednesday and held up an “Every Child Matters” flag during their team photo.
The team also released a statement that said, “Today, we reflect and recognize the intergenerational harm and injustice Indigenous communities have suffered from residential schools across Canada and honour those who were harmed and those we have lost. We are committed to addressing racism in our communities and assisting in providing platforms for cultural education through our partnerships with Siksika Nation and Tsuut’ina Nation.”
The Winnipeg Jets posted a photo of their staff wearing custom orange shirts designed with the First Nations Family Advocate Office in Manitoba.
“Today, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, we reflect on the tragic history of residential schools and their continued impact on our country. We wear orange shirts to honour the survivors and their families, but also the thousands who did not return home,” the Jets’ social media post said.
The Montreal Canadiens released a statement, along with links to resources to learn more about the day and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
The Canadiens’ statement said: “Today we recognize and honor all Indigenous children who were taken from their homes and never returned, as well as the survivors, their families and communities still affected by the tragic legacy of the residential school system. As we observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, let’s use this opportunity to reflect and educate ourselves on the history and intergenerational trauma caused by Indian residential schools to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, and the challenges they continue to face to this day. Let’s all work together on a journey of healing and reconciliation.”
The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs stood side-by-side before their game on Wednesday to recognize the day, and the Senators released this statement on Thursday: “Today, on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, we continue to reflect upon the immeasurable contributions, values and traditions of Canada’s Indigenous community. We remember all the children who went to school and never came home, and stand with the survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the Residential School system.”
The Maple Leafs wore special orange shirts and helmet decals that read, “Every Child Matters” on Wednesday and shared a message on social media that said, “Ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation tomorrow, our players are wearing orange to remember the legacy of residential schools, an those who survived them, and to declare that today and every day, Every Child Matters.”
The Indian Residential School Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available to residential school survivors 24/7 for emotional crisis referral services and information on health and support programs available in Canada.