Orange Shirt Day takes place annually on September 30 along with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day when we honour the Indigenous children who were sent away to Residential Schools in Canada and learn more about the history of those schools. Wearing an orange shirt and using the slogan, Every Child Matters, is an affirmation of our commitment to raise awareness of the residential school experience and to honour the healing journey of Indigenous lives impacted by residential schools.
Residential schools were church-run schools where approximately 150,000 Métis, Inuit and First Nations children were sent between the 1860s until 1996. The schools harmed Indigenous children by removing them from their families, forcing them to speak English or French instead of their ancestral languages, disconnecting them from their culture and traditions and forcing them to adopt Christianity in order to assimilate into Canadian society.
Research by the Truth and Reconciliation Comission of Canada (TRC) revealed that at least 3,201 students had died, mostly from disease. Diseases included tuberculosis and typhoid, which spread rapidly because the children were not adequately nourished and sometimes were forced to endure hard labor. Others died by suicide, in fires or by freezing to death while trying to escape. TRC chair, Justice Murray Sinclair, has suggested that the number of deaths may be closer to more than 6,000.
The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that Phyllis Webstad was given to her by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. When Phyllis got to school, they took away her clothes, including her new shirt. It was never returned. To Phyllis, the colour orange has always reminded her of her experiences at residential school and, as she has said, “how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared” - St. Joseph’s Residential School Stories. Additional information about Orange Shirt Day can be found here.
At Humber, we will honour this important day by asking all members of the community to wear orange in support. Visit the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation/Orange Shirt Day Gallery to see what students and employees are saying.