Residential schools have created enduring trauma and intergenerational harm for many of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The recent confirmation of unmarked burial sites related to these schools has amplified painful memories, and the impact of these tragedies will not be forgotten.
On June 3, 2021, the federal government designated September 30th as a new annual federal holiday. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault stated its objective: “to create a chance for Canadians to learn about and reflect on a dark chapter in their country’s history and to commemorate the survivors, their families and their communities, as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous leaders.”
Please remember to be sensitive during discussions, particularly in areas where there may be some personal or cultural history related to this issue.
The Orange Shirt
Phyllis (Jack) Webstad was six years old when she was taken away from her family, community, and culture and relocated in a residential school far from her home. On her first day in this school, the new orange shirt that her grandmother had given her was taken away.
In 2013, the St. Joseph Mission Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion project took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada. The events were designed to “commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation” (Source: orangeshirtday.org). As spokesperson for the Reunion group, Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story, and the orange shirt became a symbol of commemoration. Between 2013 and 2021, September 30th was observed as “Orange Shirt Day.”