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.
In the wake of revealing the graves of children that endured these horrific acts on the lands of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Penelakut First Nations and in many other locations, Orange Shirt Day has become more important than ever.
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.
PSAC BC encourages all members to participate in the events that will be taking place in your respective communities and wear orange as a conversation-starter to engage others. For more information, resources, and a list of events taking place in 2021 visit www.orangeshirtday.org.
If your worksite, Local, Branch, Area Council or Committee is planning an Orange Shirt Day event in BC, please let PSAC BC know – we will be happy to help spread the word.