Orange Shirt Day | National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is designated as an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge the tragic legacy of residential schools. It is a time for conversations about reconciliation and an exploration of opportunities to do better for generations of children to come. 

It is in the spirit of reconciliation that BC Achievement in partnership with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of BC launched the British Columbia Reconciliation Award in 2020. Through educational opportunities, shared projects and a desire to do more towards understanding, the recipients of this award demonstrate exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering reconciliation. BC Achievement Foundation board member Judith Sayers noted, “We can live together and achieve great things if there are willing people working towards a vision of reconciliation.”   

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the Award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the BC Legislature buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “We need to create a better understanding amongst all people that we are in the same canoe. No matter where you are from, we all need to paddle together.” 

Both the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day take place on September 30. 

Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not. Orange Shirt Day was started in 2013 by Chief Fred Robbins, a former student of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School in Williams Lake. This day relates to the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. On Phyllis’ first day at residential school at age six, she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt from her grandmother, which was then taken from her. It is now a symbol of the stripping away of culture and identity experienced by Indigenous children over generations. Wearing an orange shirt on September 30 signifies that #everychildmatters and must be recognized and valued. 

How you can participate on September 30

On September 30, all Canadians are encouraged to wear orange to raise awareness of the tragic legacy of residential schools and to honour the thousands of Survivors. 

Listen and watch for opportunities for learning. CBC is marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a full day of programming and content showcasing First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives across their radio, television and online channels.

Have a look at the list of virtual and live events you can participate in, shared through BC Museums Association.  

The Vancouver Art Gallery, Xweýene:msta:m ?əkwəsqwel, seýeḿ is hosting an in-person performance to honour Orange Shirt Day. 

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation, where more than 200 unmarked graves were found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, has shared a video to help people learn the Secwépemc Honour Song to drum and sing at 2:15 p.m. PST on September 30.  

Participate virtually, post pictures, share your story #OrangeShirtDay #EveryChildMatters 

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