At six years old, residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad was stripped of her shiny new orange shirt on her first day attending the St. Joseph Mission Residential School. Since 2013, September 30 has been known as Orange Shirt Day, a day to recognize the harm and pain caused by the residential school system. Earlier this year, the federal government declared September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in response to Call to Action #80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada heard the heart-wrenching testimony of thousands of Indigenous residential school Survivors. Their experiences were published in 2015 in a comprehensive report that included 94 Calls to Action.
One of the Calls to Action states:
#80 We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that the public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.
Today is Orange Shirt Day, which reminds us that every child matters. It is a solemn time to learn and reflect on what all of us can do to eliminate structural and overt racism, as well as other forms of discrimination, in our workplace, our community and our country.
It is about acknowledging the truth in our collective history and the ongoing inequities faced by Indigenous peoples across this land. The day is also about hope for the future and how Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can work together to create a better future for all.
5 reasons that motivate us to take action for reconciliation
- According to the language vitality criteria set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at least 87 Indigenous languages in Canada are at risk of disappearing. The government must step up to support Indigenous language revitalization projects.
- Although the federal government committed to end drinking-water advisories in First Nations reserves by 2021, the timeline has now been postponed until 2026. Considering the essential nature of clean drinking water, this delay is unacceptable to both Parliamentarians and Indigenous leaders.
- Inuit across Nunavut are suffering from a severely underfunded Nunavut Housing Corporation. Housing is a human right and the government must intervene to resolve this health and housing crisis.
- Systemic discrimination is still rampant in our country’s police system, with Indigenous people being 10 times more likely to be shot and killed by a police officer than a white person. We all have a role to play to end systemic racism.
- Truth and Reconciliation Report recommendations are still not fully implemented.