Orange Shirt Day: Stand Up for Injustices Facing Indigenous Children

By Stephanie Massot

I was speaking today with some of the wonderful folks we are working with in Timiskaming as we prepare to co-host a Regional Gathering there. Tiffany Stow, who is a Best Start System Navigator for the Indigenous, Rural and Remote Profiles, was explaining how Friday is a big day in Timiskaming in terms of Cultural Awareness because it is Orange Shirt Day.
 
I am not sure about all of you, but I had not heard of Orange Shirt Day! It is a part of the ‘Every Child Matters’ movement on September 30th. The orange t-shirts will be worn on this day to show support for residential school survivors and to bring attention to the other injustices facing Indigenous children today.
 
As the Orange Shirt Planning Committee in Timiskaming shared, the idea of wearing orange t-shirts was inspired by residential school survivor, Phyllis Webstad’s, story. On her first day of school, she excitedly wore her brand new orange shirt, only to have it taken away and replaced with an institutional uniform. The orange shirt represents her loss of identity and culture at the residential school. “The colour orange has always reminded me of how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,” Phyllis says of her experience at the school.
 
If you have the time, there are some events happening across Canada. Also, if you have children/nieces/nephews or grand-children/nieces/nephews, it could be nice to discuss if they have thought about wearing an orange shirt on Friday and the reasons for considering it.  
 
Through a Health Equity Work Group that I participate on, we have been reading through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action at the beginning of each meeting. So if you don’t have anything orange to wear or can’t attend an event, maybe take a read through the Health section of the report that starts on page 2, or, anyone wanting to learn more about how to offer services to Indigenous people in a Good Way will want to join this webinar next week on October 6th at 10:00 am. We hope to see you there!