Orange Shirt Day 2022

Artwork by Musqueam artist Darryl Blyth

September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day and the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This day brings us together to observe the legacy of Canada’s Indian residential school system, and commemorate those who survived and those who were lost.

This edition of Edubytes shares the history of the residential school system and context for understanding the ongoing impacts. We want to honour Survivors and their families, and celebrate our communities’ strength and resilience.

This edition has been edited by:

  • Jess Boon, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC)
  • Shannon Robinson, Education and Programming Strategist for the IRSHDC
  • Julie Gordon, Senior Strategic Communications Manager for the IRSHDC, and
  • Karleen Delaurier-Lyle, Information Services Librarian at Xwi7xwa Library

It was written and prepared by Samantha Nock, Educational Resources Developer for CTLT Indigenous Initiatives.


CONTENT NOTE: This editorial contains information on the residential school system, missing children, and Survivor testimony. Furthermore, resources will address Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit kin, the Child Welfare System, and other ongoing impacts of the residential school system.

If you need support during this challenging time, please reach out to:

The Indian Residential School Emergency Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those that may need counselling and support: 1-800-721-0066. Alternatively, the 24-hour National Crisis Line is also available: 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat line.

Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in BC to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.

The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial Aboriginal Crisis line for adults, elders, and youth. See more below:

  • Adult/Elder Crisis Line: 250-723-4050
  • Child/Youth Crisis Line: 250-723-2040
  • BC Wide Toll Free: 1-800-588-8717
  • Métis Crisis Line BC Toll Free: 1-833-638-4722


For Indigenous kin on Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 30 is a long and complex day for all of us. We have all been impacted by the residential school system. We are either Survivors or the children and grandchildren of Survivors, and hold so much grief. We want Indigenous kin to know that they are seen and heard. We understand that the days leading up to and the days after September 30 can feel incredibly heavy, and that it is normal to feel many differing emotions. Please take some time to center your own and your loved ones’ needs and reach out to the resources listed above if you need support. This is a time for us to also come together in solidarity and support each other. Please check out events that are happening to commemorate Orange Shirt Day at UBC.


Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 

Last year marked the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which coincides with Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led day of remembrance to honour residential school Survivors and those who did not make it home.

Orange Shirt Day started in 2013 as a grassroots commemoration event that took place in Williams Lake, BC. Together, families of former students of St. Joseph Mission Residential School from the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in, St’at’imc and Southern Dakelh Nations gathered to honour and remember the legacy of St. Joseph Mission. Based on Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story of her first day at St. Joseph Mission, the orange shirt has become a symbol in memory of those who attended residential schools, those who never returned home, and the continued remembrance of this ongoing legacy. September 30 marks Orange Shirt Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to reflect the time of year when children were stolen from their homes and placed in the residential school system.



To learn more about the history and contemporary impacts of the residential school system, please check out these resources:


The ongoing legacy of the residential school system

Some form of residential school education has existed in Canada since 1620, and the schools became federal policy in 1880. The last school closed in 1998. This system spans multiple generations, creating systemic intergenerational traumas in families. This history impacts all Indigenous peoples within Canada.

The residential school system was part of an ongoing colonial project by Canada to further dispossess Indigenous peoples from their land, kin and culture. Today this process is continued through the Indigenous child welfare system, starting with the Sixties Scoop, which refers to the mass removal of Indigenous children from their homes and their placement in non-Indigenous homes, often far removed from their homelands. By the 1970s, nearly one-third of children in care were Indigenous. This furthered the loss of culture, language, identity, and connection to land that was started during the residential school system.

In 2018, Survivors of the Sixties Scoop reached an $875-million settlement agreement. As of 2021, 53.8% of children in care are Indigenous. The contemporary Canadian child welfare system has been called Canada’s “residential school system part two” by Black and Métis lawyer Roslyn Chambers. Chambers has represented hundreds of families in cases against the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Number One in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (PDF) calls for the federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous governments to commit to reducing the number of Indigenous children in care.



Here are some additional resources to learn more about the Sixties Scoop, Indigenous children in the Canadian child welfare system, and the ongoing legacy of the residential school system:


Carrying this conversation in the classroom and the workplace: a note for non-Indigenous colleagues

The best tool you have is self-education. Learn and keep up to date with what is happening in Indigenous communities, not just on September 30, but with what is happening in the community currently. Give Indigenous colleagues and students space to grieve, and understand that capacity may be low. Allow flexibility in syllabi and schedules. Check in and work to create safer spaces for Indigenous colleagues and students to express their needs as they continue to process.

Drawing from a draft document that our colleagues at the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office have been working on, we share some suggestions for those who are inviting conversations about this in the workplace or the classroom:

  • Set a clear purpose for the conversation. Trying to meet different objectives at once—such as showing care, processing together, strategizing responses, and prioritizing actions—can be awkward, confusing or frustrating.
  • Consider whether involving everyone in the conversation is appropriate, and what needs to happen in advance, such as smaller conversations between different self-selecting groups.
  • Advise participants in the conversation about the goals and structure ahead of time, and allow people to choose whether and how to participate—and to ask questions or comment—beforehand. Where possible, adjust the goals or format of the meetings in response to the concerns addressed, while prioritizing the needs of those most impacted.
  • Share resources and concrete offers of support, and allow people to take time away if necessary.



Please take time to read over these resources regarding current situations in our communities:


Orange Shirt Day Events at UBC

Join the campus community to honour residential school Survivors, their families, and communities:

Learn about other topics we covered in the September 2022 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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