On September 30, people all across Canada will wear orange shirts to remember and honour Indigenous children who were taken from their communities and families to residential schools.
The summer of 2021 was a summer of orange shirts as Indigenous communities across the country shared the truth they have always known: that many of the children who never returned from residential schools remain on the grounds of those institutions in unmarked burial sites. These communities are now seeking to honour the missing children.
This Orange Shirt Day is also the first observance of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. For settler Christians in particular, this is a time when we can reflect on our role in colonialism and the residential school system, and our ongoing responsibility to make reparations.
The day is inspired by Phyllis Jack Webstad’s experience. On her first day at residential school in 1973, Phyllis was stripped of her new orange shirt, a shirt that had brought her a sense of affirmation and dignity. Canadians are asked to wear orange as a sign of support for children and communities affected by the Indian Residential School System. Wearing an orange shirt can promote discussion, helping us remember the devastating impacts of residential schools and the courageous testimony of survivors offered through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It is an opportunity to remind Canadians of the need to continue to work diligently towards fulfilling the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action.