Orange Shirt Day
Orange Shirt Day is an event that started in 2013. It was designed to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today. It is held annually on September 30 in Canadian communities with students and staff being encouraged to wear an orange shirt to school that day.
Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 as a result of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad discussing her experience when she arrived at a residential school. Webstad shared her story at a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada, in the spring of 2013. On her first day at residential school Phyllis had her new orange shirt taken away from her. Phyllis' experience is used today to teach students about residential schools and their assimilation practices.
The date of September 30 was chosen for the annual event because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools. The event is similar to "Pink Shirt Day" which is an annual anti-bullying day which many school groups participate in.
In addition to simply wearing an orange shirt on September 30, this annual event encourages Canadians to learn about the history of residential schools. Many communities have held memorial walks, film screenings, and public lectures to raise awareness about Indigenous history. Additionally, school boards across Canada have begun to use this event to teach children about residential schools.
In 2017 Jane Philpott, Canada's Minister of Indigenous Services, and Carolyn Bennett, Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister, encouraged people across Canada to participate in this commemorative and educational event.
In 2018, the department of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism announced it was considering making a statutory holiday to honour the legacy of residential schools, and September 30 was one of the dates being considered. The Heritage Committee chose Orange Shirt Day, and it was submitted by Georgina Jolibois as a private member's bill to the House of Commons, where it passed on March 21, 2019; however, the bill failed to pass the Senate before the next election was called.
One criticism of the annual event has been the high cost of the official shirts created by the Orange Shirt Day organization. Additionally, in 2017, because of the popularity of the event, there were challenges meeting the demand for shirts. As a work-around, many local communities have created their own designs of T-shirts to wear on the day of the event. Designer Carey Newman created a limited edition T-shirt for Orange Shirt Day in 2017 that sold out in less than 48 hours. Newman's father attended residential school and his design was in honour of that legacy.
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- "'Power of inspiration': Kwagiulth artist's Orange Shirt Day design sells out fast". CBC News. Retrieved October 20, 2017.