Since 2013, September 30 has been known across Canada as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada.1 Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, told her story of her first day attending residential school. She wore a shiny new orange shirt, a present from her grandmother, that was taken from her when she arrived. 2 This is how the orange shirt became a symbol of the experiences and loss of the First Nation, Inuit and Métis children who were stolen from their families and placed in these schools.
As of this year, with the passage of Bill C-5 in early June, September 30 will also be designated as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR). The date was declared a statutory federal holiday in response to Call to Action 80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
While the official name for the September 30 holiday may have changed, Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) share common goals of:
- honouring those who attended residential school, their families, and communities,
- creating meaningful discussion and reflection about the effects of these schools, and
- commemorating the history and ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School System.
On September 30, WUSA will dedicate our social media channels to reflect on the history of residential schools as well as honour the Survivors, those who have been lost, and all who are affected by the residential school experience. We will do this by amplifying and supporting the voices of Waterloo-surrounding-area initiatives, stories, services, and peer support groups including:
- “The Story of Orange Shirt Day,” Orange Shirt Day, https://www.orangeshirtday.org/about-us.html.
- “PHYLLIS’ STORY: the original orange shirt” Orange Shirt Day, https://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html