Aluki Kotierk is planning to wear orange to mark Canada Day.

The president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated says she’s approaching the national holiday as a “day of reflection” in light of mass graves of Indigenous children being located at former residential schools in the south.

Orange Shirt Day is held every Sept. 30. It’s intended as a reminder of how disruptive the residential school experience was to Indigenous ways of life.

Seeing a historical photo recently of a young Indigenous girl with a written reminder that she was a possible victim of residential schools left Kotierk feeling troubled.

“When you see it visually like that, it has such a profound emotional impact because in Nunavut we have such a high youth population,” she said, adding that the sheer number of children’s bodies being found and the relative recency of this tragedy are disturbing.

“It has had an impact on our fathers’ generation and what that means for the impact on parenting, for instance,” she said. “It helps people like me have even more compassion to kind of understand the great adversity that people went through.

“(The residential school system) shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but then Canada went forward and had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and at that point the truth could have been uncovered even more, but the choice was made not to,” Kotierk said of the Government of Canada’s decision not to fund a search for graves several years ago.

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