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  • Jahena Orthi

Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day occurs on September 30th, the day of Truth and Reconciliation, reconciling and honouring indigenous children. It specifically takes place on the 30th of September because that was when children were taken away to Residential Schools.

The Residential School System was built for Metis, Inuit, and First Nation children to be "civilized" and lose their culture. They were converted to Christianity and adapted to the Euro-Canadian lifestyle led by the government and churches. This school system was implemented around 1880, and the last residential school was closed in 1996. Over 150 000 Indigenous children attended, and the trauma of the residential school systems exists even today.

Children in Residential Schools were educated on European language, culture and were forced religious values. However, the systematic-racism is beyond that. Here is a list of the unfair policies and activities that were active at the school:

  • Banned to speak native language

  • Not enough food

  • Shaving hair or forcing haircuts

  • Ate spoiled food

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Abortions

  • Lack of medical attention

  • Dangerous labour work

  • Racist language

  • Forced uniforms

  • Toxic chemical to clean children

  • Forced religion and prayers

  • Being exposed to illnesses like Tuberculosis

  • Outside in freezing weather

Furthermore, punishment when denying these rules include but are not limited to:

  • Needles put in children's tongues when they speak their language

  • Rape, sexual assault

  • Sexual abuse

  • Starving children

  • Public stripping

  • Hitting and beating naked kids

  • Caged in closets, rooms, etc.

  • Electrical shocks

  • Beaten with straps, whipped

  • Burnt hands

  • Beating until unconscious

The Residential School system has left a scar in Canadian History. The horrible policies set out by the government have been apologized for. However, this kind of torture is worth more than just a "sorry" or even payment. In fact, the government of Ontario only enforced Indigenous learning for children from grades 1 to 3 on September 29th, 2021. It took about 141 years for the government to understand the severity of their actions. In addition to the 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children found at Kamloops. All these things added together; on June 3rd, 2021, Orange Shirt Day was declared a National Statutory Holiday. The History of Orange Shirt Day comes from Phyllis Webstad's story. On Phyllis Webstad's first day in British Columbia at St. Joseph's Mission Presentation School, she got a brand new orange shirt from her grandmother. However, when she went to the residential school, all her clothes were stolen. She never got her orange shirt back. So now, the colour orange is a reminder of the traumatic experiences she had at the residential school. She stated, ". . . my feelings didn't matter, how no one cared and I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared".

To remember Canada's bloody History and the innocent children who were tortured, lost their culture, and lives, we wear orange shirts on September 30th. On Orange Shirt Day, at 2:15 pm, we have a moment of silence to think of the 215 children and many more who lost their lives from the Residential School System. We have been granted land from the first inhibitors of what is known as Canada. We speak and stand on stolen territory, so we are grateful and sorry to all the Indigenous children and families for the great injustices that shouldn't have happened.

Every Child Matters.


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