Indigenous Relations

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation September 30 2021
In June of 2021, the federal government passed legislation to mark September 30 2021 as a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was originally proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Action 80 calls upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish a statutory holiday "to honour survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process."

September 30 is also known as Orange Shirt Day, a movement that started to honour Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools in Canada. It was intended as a day for all Canadians to create meaningful conversations about the effects and legacy of residential schools; for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter; and for all of us to uphold our commitment to reconciliation. The orange shirts comes from Phyllis (Jack) Webstad's experience as a six year old. Her grandmother had bought her a new "back to school" outfit, including an orange shirt. However, when she got to St. Joseph Mission Residential School, she was stripped and her clothes were taken away from her: 

"the colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn't matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing" Phyllis Webstad

The date of September 30 was chosen because it was the time of year when Indigenous children were removed from their families and forced to attend residential schools.
The District of Saanich is committed to fostering respect, reconciliation, and mutual understanding with all Indigenous peoples and communities. 


On Friday July 9, the Chiefs of South Island Nations came together to issue a joint statement addressing the events that have unfolded recently in Greater Victoria. At that time it was asked of those in attendance to share this message and to encourage those who read this message to pass it along to your friends and family. Below is their statement and we ask to help spread their words.
A Message from a Collective of South Island Nations 


The District of Saanich lies within the territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən (lay-kwung-gen) peoples represented by the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations and the W̱SÁNEĆ (weh-saanich) peoples represented by the Tsartlip (Sart-Lip), Pauquachin (Paw-Qua-Chin), Tsawout (Say-Out), Tseycum (Sigh-Come) and Malahat (Mal-a-hat) Nations. The First Peoples have been here since time immemorial and their history in this area is long and rich.

The District of Saanich is proud that our name is derived from the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples.  Saanich Council is committed to taking a leadership role in the process of healing wounds of the past and becoming a more just, fair and caring society.

Pathway to Truth and Reconciliation

On November 27, 2017, Saanich Council received a staff report outlining the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action and passed a motion to commence formal government-to-government relationships with the District of Saanich’s neighbouring First Nation governments: Songhees, Esquimalt, W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip), BOḰEĆEN (Pauquachin), SȾÁUTW̱  (Tsawout), W̱SIḴEM (Tseycum) and MÁLEXEȽ (Malahat). Staff were given authority to implement projects and initiatives that improve government-to-government relationships within our existing budget.

Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogue Gathering

Saanich Community Services staff were honoured to participate in this event by both attending the two day conference and by sitting on the steering committee. It is through events like these that we are able to stay engaged with the urban reconciliation conversation. We look forward to future opportunities to learn and are proud to present the Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogue February 28-29 Gathering Report.

The report provides a summary of the 2020 Victoria Urban Reconciliation Dialogue (VURD) Gathering (the Gathering) held on February 28-29 on the traditional territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples, in Victoria, British Columbia (B.C.). VURD is a network of partners interested in advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the area of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The VURD Steering Committee is a collaboration of urban Indigenous organizations, including the Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC) and Métis Nation of Greater Victoria; three levels of non-Indigenous government (federal, provincial and municipal); and urban Indigenous community members.

The 2020 Gathering was the third gathering hosted by VURD and brought forward the findings of the previous two events to seek community feedback and support for VURD’s next steps. The Gathering brought together over 150 people from the Métis Nation, all levels of non-Indigenous governments, the urban Indigenous community, local First Nations, and community-based social service agencies and non-profits including health, the justice and education sectors, financial institutions and arts organizations.

Download the full report here.

First Nations interdepartmental working group

Council’s motion of November 27, 2017 included direction to create a staff First Nations interdepartmental working group. The working group was asked to report back to Council on their assessment of the June 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action” Report with potential initiatives for the District of Saanich to explore.

The Staff report September 21, 2018 included the following initial actions:

  • Cultural safety and humility training for Council and staff
  • Building formal government-to-government relationships
  • Presenting a more “welcoming face” by creating a First Nations Relations web page, and installing welcome signage at all Saanich recreation facilities in SENĆOŦEN and Lək̓ʷəŋən languages.

Council endorsed these recommendations on October 1, 2018.

In the 2019 Budget, Council approved an annual budget of $10,000 for initiatives and programs identified by the interdepartmental working group and approved by Council.

Going forward

Reconciliation is more than a ceremonial acknowledgement of our territories. It is an opportunity to learn the true history of this area, and acknowledge the unjust treatment of the people whose lands we occupy.

The process forward will take patience as we take a hard look at our colonial past and work toward decolonization and reconciliation with the W̱SÁNEĆ, Lək̓ʷəŋən, and Urban Indigenous.

The District of Saanich acknowledges the support provided by the Capital Regional District First Nations Relations division.