Annual Orange Shirt Day honours residential school survivors
- EFN Staff | September 28, 2017
Orange shirts will be worn throughout Canada on September 30th also known as Orange Shirt Day – a day to honour residential school survivors. The designated day started back in 2013 and was inspired from Phyllis Webstad who attended St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia. Back in the 70s, Webstad was six-years-old and had just arrived at the residential school wearing her brand-new orange shirt only to have it forcefully removed. She never did receive her orange shirt back but when she reflected back on the day she arrived to the residential school:
“The color 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,” Webstad said in a website statement. “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”
For the past five years, people across the nation have honoured family members, friends, elders and all those who attended the residential schools and those who did not make it home. Schools, businesses and organizations will be celebrating the event on Friday, September 29th and the 30th.
The City of Regina and organizations such as Regina Police Service, YWCA and various Crown Corporations, will be participating with the community on September 29. The event will start with a gathering at City Square Plaza with guest speakers, a walk downtown and ending with a round dance.
“Reconciliation is a priority for the City of Regina. We are committed to fulfilling the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s municipally directed Calls to Action,” said Mayor Michael Fougere in a press release. “Participating in Orange Shirt Day activities is one way to demonstrate our commitment, with further actions underway through Reconciliation Regina.”
In Saskatoon, a community pancake breakfast will take place on Saturday at Central Urban Métis Federation Incorporated (CUMFI) starting at 7:30 am until 10. SaskPolytechnic institution in Saskatoon will be handing orange t-shirts on first-come first-served basis.
“Orange Shirt Day is about acknowledging that for reconciliation to take place, we have to make sure that every child feels like they have a place in this world,” said director Jason Seright, Indigenous Student Success Strategy.
Orange Shirt Day was recognized by the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) last year where they officially recognized this day and encouraged all schools in the province to wear an orange shirt to school.
“Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to ensure discussion happens about residential schools,” said SSBA President Connie Bailey in a media release from last year. “We know it is important to build understanding about this history of our province and country.”
The Saskatoon Health Region is also honouring the commitment to reconciliation by encouraging their employees to participate in Orange Shirt Day, according to their website.
“We want to maintain meaningful relationships to formally commit to adopting the calls to action in a constructive way,” said Kari Wuttunee, the Saskatoon Health Region Community Development Coordinator. “Orange Shirt Day is a part of a city-wide day of recognition and awareness that has been adopted by private industry, schools, community organizations, public offices and services. This is what Reconciliation looks like in action.”
The National Association of Friendship Centers (NAFC) announced the launch of a social media campaign in recognition of Orange Shirt Day which takes place on September 30, 2017. The campaign also invites individuals to share their ideas about and commitments to Reconciliation by using the following common hashtags: #EveryChildMatters, #OrangeShirtDay and #IWearOrangeBecause on their social media pages.
“Residential Schools and their legacy continue to have a very real impact on our everyday lives and taking the time to wear orange on September 30th acts as a reminder that Canada is still on a healing journey and we are all a part of that journey,” said NAFC President Christopher Sheppard in a media release. “Wearing an orange shirt shows honour and respect towards our residential school survivors and their families.”
Residential schools date back to the 1870s with over 150,000 Indigenous children who were separated from their families. Canada’s last running residential school closed in 1996 in Saskatchewan. The Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) recorded over 6,000 deaths of students in the residential schools in Canada.