September 30, 2021

This piece was originally published in Postmedia on Sept. 29, 2021.

By Geoff Davies

APTN to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with ‘powerful, poignant’ lineup

Canada’s first Indigenous broadcaster will showcase feature films, insightful documentaries and investigative reporting to spotlight this historic day.

On Sept. 30, for the first time in this country’s history, Canadians will observe a statutory holiday in honour of residential school survivors, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

To welcome this day of remembrance, and to shine a light on the tragic history of Canada’s residential school system, APTN is offering a special day of broadcasting from 6 a.m., Sept. 30, 2021, to 6 a.m., Oct. 1, 2021.

“Indigenous knowledges and traditions are passed down from generation to generation and are inextricably linked to our communities and land,” says Monika Ille, an 18-year veteran of the network and its CEO since 2019. “On Sept. 30, we will share our cultures and traditions on APTN and take pause to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools.”

For Ille, as she looks forward to the stories APTN plans to tell that day, what stands out is the fact that not only will those stories be told, they’ll be told from the perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples who experienced them.

“People are not speaking for us,” says Ille. “We’re speaking for ourselves.”

“And more and more non-Indigenous people want to listen,” she says. “Audiences are not lost that the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is taking place just a few months after the recoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school grounds.”

“In June, when they recovered the unmarked graves of Indigenous children in B.C., stories that we’ve known as Indigenous Peoples, stories that are outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada reports, were brought into the spotlight for a Canadian public that, in general, didn’t know.”

Ille adds that compared to years past, there is more openness, compassion and awareness of the history of residential schools.

“People want to move forward and work together,” says Ille. “We’re only at the beginning, the way I see it,” she says.

Programming meant to enlighten and inspire action

The special lineup for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation begins Sept. 30 at 6 a.m. with APTN Sunrise Ceremony. This program will take audiences to various Indigenous communities across Turtle Island, where each community will gather to honour this important day with their traditions and culture.

Mike Omelus, APTN’s executive director of content and strategy, describes the original production as “a simple yet beautiful program” to welcome viewers and help them get ready for what’s ahead through greetings, prayers and ceremonies.

“We wanted to start our lineup of special programming with something that reminds people that this is a very, very important day, for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike,” he says.

APTN’s lineup continues with Every Child Matters, a documentary examining the path of reconciliation, guided by the voices of survivors, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, artists and leaders.

Then comes the new project, Reconciliation & Me, which pairs archival footage with first-hand perspectives of residential school survivors to inform and spark discussion among the five youth allies brought together by host Sarain Fox.

Later in the day, the lineup includes nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, which follows the family of the late Colten Boushie as they pursue justice for the young man fatally shot in a Saskatchewan farmyard.

Then, APTN will air the supernatural thriller released last year, Monkey Beach, followed by the 2019 drama acclaimed at both TIFF and the Vancouver International Film Festival, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk.

The evening will feature APTN’s national news broadcast, along with an investigative feature on the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, as reporter Kathleen Martens digs into the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

The day’s programming will have a special live broadcast, aired in partnership with CBC. Produced by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the live event will create a space for education on the impacts of residential schools and provide viewers with an opportunity to honour survivors through ceremony.

“Our programming is poignant and it’s powerful, and hopefully it’s going to help all viewers understand the significance of the day and prompt constructive action towards reconciliation,” says Omelus.

“It absolutely has been a long time coming.”

For more information, including specific showtimes, visit