Orange Shirt Day is usually on September 30th, but since the 30th falls on a Saturday this year, we will observe it on Friday, September 29. September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, a day that recognizes the harm Canada’s residential school system inflicted on Indigenous children and their families, and the ongoing trauma that remains today. It is a day to remember and honour the life of every child. The goal of Orange Shirt Day is to create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools through Orange Shirt Day activities, and to promote the concept of Every Child Matters.
The Orange Shirt Society was formed in Williams Lake, British Columbia to encourage and support communities to recognize Orange Shirt Day and to support reconciliation events and activities.
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s experience at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in the 1970s. The “orange shirt” in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that was given to Webstad by her grandmother for her first day of school. 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.”
As of June 2021, Orange Shirt Day now coincides with National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, which is a federal statutory holiday.