Each year, September 30 is National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This federal statutory holiday day honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities.
This day is also Orange Shirt Day.
Orange Shirt Day is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day. It raises awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of residential schools. It also promotes the concept of “Every Child Matters”.
Orange shirt day is a movement that officially began in 2013. In reality, it began in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad entered the St. Joseph Mission Residential School, outside of Williams Lake, BC. Young Phyllis was wearing a brand new orange shirt for her first day of school – new clothes being a rare and wonderful thing for a First Nation girl growing up in her grandmother’s care – but the Mission Oblates quickly stripped her of her new shirt and replaced it with the school’s institutional uniform.
September 30th was chosen because it was the time of the year where children were taken from their homes to attend residential schools. It is also an opportunity for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies to be set for the coming school year.
The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. We encourage you to wear orange shirts on Thursday, September 28th and Friday, September 29th. This commemorates the Indigenous children who were forced to attend residential schools, honours the healing journey of the survivors and their families, commits to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
We encourage you take this opportunity to learn more about Indigenous history, and consider your personal journeys towards Truth and Reconciliation on this day.
Our Housing Central partners at Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AHMA) will be hosting an National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Panel Discussion. This online event takes place on Thursday, September 28th from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m..
You are also encouraged to attend other events happening in the lower mainland and across B.C. on—and leading up to—Sept. 30th. Emily Carr University has compiled a great list of activities to help guide you.
For many people. learning about reconciliation and decolonization can be a difficult and personal process. It can often be difficult to know where to start. While we are all in different places in our journeys a good place to start—or check in with yourself—is by reading, watching, and learning.
There are numerous resources on this topic. CHF BC has compiled some to get you started.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line provides support for former students and those affected. The 24-hour national crisis line is: 1-866-925-4419.
Children can also call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 68686
At CHF BC, we are on a journey that begins with being open to unlearning. It means challenging out belief and narratives, and inviting more accountability in our work. Many of our members are impacted by, or have observed, the colonial practices embedded in their housing co-ops’ culture. As we’ve engaged with them, we recognize that we have a long way to go. We are committed to honouring the lived experiences of our members. We endeavour to lead by example and support housing co-op boards to create more inclusive communities.
On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, our thoughts turn to the more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who were forced to attend residential schools. We also honour the memories of the many thousands among them who never returned home. We think of their families, and an unimaginable pain that can never be erased. And we mourn. We do this because there can be no reconciliation without truth. Like it or not, our truth includes the dark stain of state-sponsored genocide with deep roots in the past. The negative impact of these past—and present—actions continue today.
One annual day cannot erase or atone for centuries of violence and colonization. Reconciliation will necessarily be built on a commitment to learning and action based on justice, respect, and equality. Truth is about our past and our present; reconciliation is the story of our future.
CHF BC, COHO Management Services, and CLT will observe the occasion by stepping away from our work. As a sign of respect, our offices will be closed on Monday, October 2nd as the National Day is on a Saturday this year. We hope to use this time to observe, learn and act in the spirit of trut and reconciliation.