In recent years, people across Canada have been wearing orange on September 30 and participating in Orange Shirt Day events to recognize and raise awareness about the history and legacies of the residential school system in Canada. This year, the Canadian government designated September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad, of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, was given by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt – it was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange has remained a reminder of her experiences at residential school. Forty years later, on September 30, 2013, Phyllis spoke publicly for the first time about her experience, beginning the Orange Shirt Day movement.
You Can Participate
There are many ways you can participate in Orange Shirt Day:
- wear an orange shirt on September 30
- share Phyllis’ story (available on YouTube)
- read the book by Phyllis Webstad, The Orange Shirt Story – available in English, French and Shuswap
- read books by Indigenous authors about residential schools
Indigenous organizations across the country organize events and workshops to mark this day. Try searching for organizations in your area to participate. You can also visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to learn more about their activities and events.
The annual Orange Shirt Day opens the door to conversation on all aspects of residential schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects and the legacy they have left behind. We encourage all Canadians to participate in this discussion and create bridges with each other for reconciliation; to listen with open ears to the stories of survivors and their families and to remember those that didn’t make it home.
Every Child Matters!