2021 will mark the first year that September 30 will be observed as an annual federal statutory holiday in Canada. Legislation was passed in June 2021 to create the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as part of the Canadian Government’s commitment to reconciliation and work to ensure that the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools is never forgotten.
September 30 has been observed as Orange Shirt Day since 2013 across Canada to honour the Indigenous children who were placed in residential schools after being taken from their homes. Orange Shirt Day was created by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band) and residential school survivor. Phyllis proudly wore a new orange shirt for her first day at residential school as a 6-year-old child, and it was taken away from her, along with her other clothing and belongings. The orange shirt has come to represent the many things that were taken from these families and children, and Orange Shirt Day aims to encourage conversation about the lasting effects of residential schools.
Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were removed from their homes and placed in residential schools, a practice that lasted in Canada for over a century. Many of the students suffered abuse, neglect, and malnutrition, and it has been estimated that over 4,000 Indigenous children died as a result. In 2021, former school sites containing unmarked mass graves containing the bodies of students were discovered using ground-penetrating radar.
September 30 will be recognized in a similar manner to other federal statutory holidays in Canada, as a paid day off for federally regulated jobs, with federal offices and banks closed on this day. (Similar to Remembrance Day and Easter Monday) We hope that you will join us in taking time to reflect on the tragedies experienced by Indigenous people as a result of the residential school system.
- Orange Shirt Day https://www.orangeshirtday.org/
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports: https://nctr.ca/records/reports/
- Indigenous Canada Online Course from the University of Alberta: https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html
- The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund https://downiewenjack.ca
- Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience 1-866-925-4419 https://www.irsss.ca/faqs/how-do-i-reach-the-24-hour-crisis-line