The residential school system separated Indigenous children from their families, language and culture. It was an act of genocide against the First Peoples of this land whose lives and futures were forever altered. It is a shameful part of Canada’s history that should never be forgotten, and the founders of Orange Shirt Day want to make sure that it never will be.
The day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration project in Williams Lake B.C. In 2013, survivors of the school gathered for a reunion to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families. One survivor, Phyllis Webstad, shared with everyone the story of her first day at the residential school when her new orange shirt, a gift from her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year-old girl.
September 30 was the date chosen because it represents the season when children were taken from their homes to begin their time at residential schools and it also gives teachers time to plan events in schools across the country. The event provides the opportunity to talk to children about the impacts of their experiences and to create space to talk about anti-bullying and anti-racism policies for the school year.
We encourage all of you to participate in the events that will be taking place in your respective communities and wear orange as a conversation-starter to engage others. Connect with survivors and let them know they are not alone in their healing journeys. Ensure that the path of reconciliation is a well-worn one.