Orange Shirt Day originated from the experience of Phyllis Webstad from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation in British Columbia on her first day at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in 1973, where she arrived with a new orange shirt, which was stolen from her. She was only six years old. Since 2013, Orange Shirt Day has become a legacy project that encourages global conversation on the crimes committed at residential schools. Today is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the ongoing generational and inter-generational effects of residential schools and the tragic legacy they have left behind – especially this year, as many communities are recovering the unmarked graves of their missing children. This day is not just a day off, but a time to do the work of Reconciliation.
As the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it is time for all Canadians to recognize the blatant inhumanities committed against our lost children and the Survivors of residential schools, their families and our First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities. Public commemoration of the ongoing impacts of residential schools plays a role in the educating and reconciliation process. Canadians must do their part to create authentic action and bridge renewed relationships with the original peoples of this land. Today, we recognize Survivors and let them know that they matter and we hear them. Every one matters.
At IIC, we believe in the words of the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair that, “education got us into this and education must get us out.” Today, we ask our followers to wear orange and raise awareness about the tragic legacy of residential schools, honour Survivors and those who did not come home, and to read, reflect, and put into action the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action.
Make no mistake, this is not history because it still lies before us.
We personally thank each of our member Indigenous Post-Secondary Institutes for their tireless work and dedication in providing high-quality and culturally relevant post-secondary education. They are carving the path for a better tomorrow for the young ones that are coming behind us.