Toronto – September 21, 2019 – UFCW Canada is proud to commemorate Orange Shirt Day on September 30. As part of the day, our union will be joining with communities and individuals across the country who see this event as an opportunity to talk about the impact of Canada’s residential school system on Indigenous persons and the approximately 150,000 children who were subjected to mistreatment and abuse at these facilities.
The Orange Shirt Day initiative began in 2013, following the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School Commemoration held in Williams Lake, B.C. The date honours the story of Phyllis Webstad, who tells the story of donning a new orange shirt for her first day of school at the Mission, only to have it stripped from her upon arrival. Phyllis was only 6 years old. This was a precursor to the maltreatment she and many other children received at the school. The last of these government-run and religiously administered schools closed in Canada in 1996.
The date, chosen to coincide with the time of year when children would be taken from their homes to attend residential school, calls on us to reflect on the existence and negative impacts that residential schools had on Indigenous children. It also presents an opportunity, especially for children fresh into their school year, to learn about this history and work together to counter racism and bullying.
Last November, UFCW Canada presented to the federal Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and spoke about the importance of declaring a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a national statutory holiday. Having passed third reading in the House, NDP MP Georgina Jolibois’ private member’s bill now awaits final approval by the Senate to designate September 30 as that commemorative day.
For now, the importance of September 30 remains commemorated by activists across the country as Orange Shirt Day. UFCW Canada encourages all activists and allies to observe this day by wearing an orange shirt to show your support. You can also share a photo or video through your social media networks or get involved in September 30 events in your area. To learn more about Orange Shirt Day, visit www.orangeshirtday.org.
As Canada’s leading union, UFCW is committed to achieving Indigenous justice and advancing Indigenous rights in Canada. To learn more about our work in this area here, and to find out how you can advance Reconciliation in your workplace and community, visit UFCW Canada’s Reconciliation webpage.