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Why Orange Shirt Day is important?

Book Review, Government
7 min read
Orange Shirt Day

Many of us sported our Orange Shirts yesterday, as it was the last school day before September 30th. It was great seeing children on the playground wearing orange shirts, pants, sweatshirts, and anything else orange that people could find to support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation which is officially today, September 30th.

Many of us know now about the atrocities that happened to our indigenous people through residential schools. It still makes my heart-ache thinking about these young children being taken from their loving homes to be “educated”, but not everyone knows why the orange shirt was chosen.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Provincial legislation

On March 9, 2023, the Province of British Columbia passed legislation to make September 30 a statutory holiday.

Enshrining National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in B.C. law gives more people the chance to commemorate the history and legacy of the residential school system on September 30 each year. This was done by creating a new Act called The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Act.

Having a provincial statutory holiday means eligible B.C. workers are able to observe September 30 with a paid day off or receive payment at premium rates if required to work.

More British Columbians will be able to take part in the day such as attending local events, reading, watching and listening to Indigenous-created content, supporting an Indigenous-owned business, talking to family, friends and coworkers about reconciliation, and wearing an orange shirt.

British Columbia joins Canada, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon as jurisdictions that have designated September 30 as a statutory holiday.

Ottawa, Canada – September 30, 2022: A crowd gathered at LeBreton Flats to take in events celebrating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day was declared a national holiday in 2021.

Why Orange Shirt Day?

Orange Shirt Day, is a grassroots campaign founded by Phyllis Webstad. Orange Shirt Day grew out of her own experiences and the experiences of other residential school survivors who attended St. Joseph’s Mission near Williams Lake. It’s a day to honour the healing journeys of residential school survivors and their families and a time to engage in meaningful discussions about the history and legacy of the residential school system. 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of Orange Shirt Day.

Orange Shirt Day has become an important opportunity to open up dialogue on anti-racism and anti-bullying. This day is meant to also encourage deeper reflection, learning and public dialogue on the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

How to teach children about Orange Shirt Day?

Phyliss has created a book to teach children about what happened – Every Child Matters. Learn the meaning behind the phrase, ‘Every Child Matters.’

Orange Shirt Day founder, Phyllis Webstad, offers insights into this heartfelt movement.

Every Child Matters honours the history and resiliency of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island and moves us all forward on a path toward Truth and Reconciliation.

Phyllis Webstad (née Jack) is Northern Secwépemc (Shuswap) from Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band).

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How else can I show my respect for Orange Shirt Day?

The Vancouver Sun provided a list of some events happening in Metro Vancouver. And, a good way to honour the Indigenous survivors and their families is to turn up in an orange shirt.

File photo: Several hundred people took part in a march to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in North Vancouver in 2022. Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG PHOTO BY JASON PAYNE /PNG

North Vancouver

Indigenous artist James Harry discusses his newest project with SOS Children’s Village B.C. at 1174 Welch St. on Sept. 30. from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Harry is of Squamish (Swxwú7meshḵ) and European descent and is the recipient of the 2022 Griffin Art Projects Indigenous Studio Award. There will also be a Q-and-A led by Indigenous curatorial assistant Emmett Hanly.

White Rock

Join the Semiahmoo First Nation’s 3rd Annual Walk for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, beginning near Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles Plaza and ending at Semiahmoo Park. It runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There will be youth speakers, Semiahmoo First Nation youth dancers, and a performance by “M’Girl,” an Indigenous women’s harmonizer and drum group. Folks can enjoy the complimentary chili and bannock, with plenty of activities for children.

Parking is free at the Semiahmoo parking lot located east of Semiahmoo Park. Organizers will hand out free orange shirts for the first 100 youth at Grand Chief Bernard Robert Charles Plaza.

Maple Ridge

PLEA Community Services will host an event at Memorial Peace Park on Sept. 30 starting at 10 a.m. with local Indigenous people, including the Katzie First Nations to raise awareness of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

New Westminster

Spirit of the Children Society will host a pipe ceremony at Westminster Pier Park on Sept. 30 to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities.

Attendees are encouraged to wear an orange shirt to the free family event. Organizers are also asking people not to consume drugs or alcohol out of respect.

The event runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.


Nisga’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society will honour the lost children and survivors from the residential school system with a National Day For Truth And Reconciliation event at John Hendry Park at Trout Lake Community Centre on Sept. 30, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Everyone is welcome to attend and participate in the program. Orange shirts will be sold and there will be food vendors.

Also on Sept. 30:

• Song of Stars Entertainment Inc. will host a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation starting at noon at Song of Stars school (200-3466 West Broadway). To learn more, visit songofstars.com.

• Hastings Community Association hosts an Orange Shirt Day event at Templeton Welcome Garden. The event will include Indigenous speakers, drumming, Earth art, tea music, garden tours and ice cream.

• At UBC, there will be an Intergenerational March to commemorate Orange Shirt Day. Participants will gather at the outdoor amphitheatre starting at 11:45 a.m. and the march begins at 1 p.m.


Skookum Surrey will host an afternoon of drumming, sharing, tea and bannock at Holland Park in Surrey to mark National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The free event on Sept. 29 runs from 3 to 5 p.m.

Other ways to support Orange Shirt Day

If you can’t attend one of the events, The Orange Shirt Society believes you can support Reconciliation every day in many ways.


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