Protesters took to the streets of Canada's most-populous city Toronto on Thursday, marking the country's inaugural holiday in honor of the lost children and survivors of indigenous schools.
"Every single day all of us are just fighting to get our culture back and it was unfair of us to lose it."
The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was established in June by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is facing major backlash for going on vacation instead of attending several key events marking the holiday.
The holiday was created after more than a thousand unmarked graves were found near two schools earlier this year.
On Thursday protesters wore shirts reading 'Every Child Matters' and flecked the streets with the color orange - the symbol of that initiative.
"We should be living our lives on our reservations and on our land and getting our land back and it's hard seeing all these people just protesting something like this, a genocide. We're protesting a genocide and it's emotional."
The so-called 'residential school system', which was active from the 1800s to 1996, removed more than 150 000 indigenous children from their families with the stated aim of assimilating them.
Some were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition at schools.
One commission in 2015 called it 'cultural genocide'.
Today indigenous communities in the country suffer from higher levels of poverty and violence as well as shorter life expectancies.
Canada's newest holiday is not recognized by some provinces including its most-populous Ontario, where schools, the stock market and most businesses remained open.