An 'Every Child Matters’ flag was raised today at Toronto Police Service Divisions across the city to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.
At the flag raising ceremony at 51 Division that included Service members as well as community partners in the Indigenous communities, Chief James Ramer acknowledged the harm done to Canada’s Indigenous People.
He said it’s a dark and shameful part of our history.
“The first step towards reconciliation is understanding our past,” said Ramer. “By educating ourselves and our young people, we can truly embrace the meaning of Truth and Reconciliation and ensure the legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.
“Today and every day, I encourage everyone to take the time to learn more. Gain a greater respect for and a deeper understanding of Indigenous People and their perspectives. Read the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the many related resources available to you. I also ask everyone to take a moment today to reflect on the impact residential schools had, and continue to have, on generations of Indigenous People.”
Elder Andrew Wesley started the proceedings with a smudging ceremony and blessing while the All Nations Singers and First Fire Dancers performed at the event.
“We’re told to teach one person today what the residential schools were all about,” said Wesley, after smudging the group. “One person and that person will teach another person and pretty soon people will know what happened at the residential schools we went to.”
Const. Mike Jeffrey, who has been a Service member for 20 years, the Indigenous Liaison Officer at 51 Division who has Indigenous roots himself, helped put together the flag raising ceremony at the downtown police station.
“I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the past historical wrongs that have happened to Indigenous People and part of that is what we are doing today,” he said. “It’s also important that we enhance our relationship with that community. This is one of the approaches we are taking and we will be doing a lot more programming to show our support for the Indigenous community.”
Because the majority of the Indigenous services human providers are in the downtown core, it was important for 51 Division to take the lead in organizing a commemorative ceremony to remember the many children in the residential school system who never made it back home.
“I think this is a good step towards reconciliation and building those bridges to those communities,” said Fred Martin, the Service’s first Indigenous Engagement Specialist.
Supt. Peter Moreira, the 51 Division Unit commander, supported the initiative for a flag to be flown at his station.
“With the large Indigenous population we have in our Division, it’s important to show our commitment to serving this community,” he said.
The Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre provided the flags that were raised at TPS stations today.