National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day
is September 30, 2023
Since 2021, the recovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools has brought widespread attention to what many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people already knew: thousands of Indigenous children perished and were harmed in the Canadian Indian Residential School System. The graves raised many questions about how a society takes responsibility for the suffering inflicted by its own institutions upon vulnerable children.
September 30 was declared a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by the Canadian government in 2021 to commemorate those who died within these state- and church-run institutions. The date was chosen to coincide with the Indigenous led Orange Shirt Day, which has been observed since 2013.
Orange Shirt Day invites learning and dialogue about the colonial violence enacted by the state and church-run residential school system, its ongoing intergenerational and community harms, and the ways in which the logics of the system continue to manifest today. It also invites genuine commitment to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action. The orange shirt in Orange Shirt Day refers to the new shirt that was given to Phyllis Webstad by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. Upon arriving at school, her clothes were taken away, including her new shirt. Since then, the colour orange has always reminded Phyllis of her experiences at residential school. The orange shirt can be understood as a symbol of the genocide, separation of families, and many forms of abuses enacted upon Indigenous children and their communities over generations.
On October 27, 2022, the House of Commons officially recognized the Indian Residential School System as genocide. In 2023, we continue to mourn and bear witness as more unmarked graves are recovered across Canada. As recently as August 2023, more unmarked graves were recovered in English River First Nation in Saskatchewan. Tragically, there have been so many recoveries that we do not have the capacity to address each instance, yet we want to acknowledge the pain that each recovery means for Indigenous communities, including Indigenous YMCA staff, volunteers, and members. Each recovery is also a reminder of our ongoing responsibility to address colonialism and reconciliation.
How Can You Take Part?
Below are lists of resources and local events that we encourage you to participate in, read or watch to learn more and create awareness. On September 30th, wear an orange shirt to visibly show your support and promote the concept that #EveryChildMatters.
- Gitche Namewikwedong Reconciliation Garden is having a Truth and Reconciliation Day Sacred Fire at the garden from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.
- Newash Community Helpers’ Group & Partnering Programs is hosting a Truth and Reconciliation Day Fall Festival at Cape Croker Park from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.
- Saugeen Advocacy for Healing in partnership with Saugeen Community Services and Supporting organizations is hosting National Truth & Reconciliation Day events from 11 AM – 4 PM at James Nation Centre, Saugeen First Nation on Saturday, September 30, all welcome.
- Have an event you would like us to add? Please email details to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is available to Survivors and their families at any time. Please call 1-800-721-0066 or 1-866-925-4419 to access the 24-7 crisis line. You can find additional support via HopeForWellness.ca Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth can text 686868 for access to Indigenous volunteer crisis responders (via Crisis Text Line powdered by Kids Help Phone). People of all ages can text 741741 to connect with a trained, volunteer crisis responder for free, 24/7 support (via Wellness Together Canada, a mental health and substance use portal for anyone in Canada).
- Read the YMCAs in Canada Statement of Reconciliation, including our commitment to addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
- Learn more from Orangeshirtday.org, which includes resources for Teachers
- Learn about the history of residential schools in Canada
- Read Phyllis Webstad’s story in her own words
- Sign up to receive a digital version of Every Child Matters: Reconciliation Through Education
- Share this CBC Kids resource for What is Orange Shirt Day?
- Attend and share information about the Every Child Matters: Reconciliation Through Education virtual event for youth grades 5-12 taking place on September 30
- Get a general overview of the work being done with reconciliation at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- Find out more about Accountability in Our Lifetime: A Call to Honour the Rights of Indigenous Children and Youth
- Read an update on Canada’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
- Learn about The Road to Truth: The Pope’s Visit July 2022 by APTN
- Learn about how to approach Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers in your community
- Create a land acknowledgement for use when gathering with others
–How to Acknowledge Territory
–Guide to Acknowledge First Peoples and Traditional Territory
- Familiarize yourself with tobacco offering protocol for approaching Elders and Knowledge Keepers
- Experience stories from Indigenous cities throughout Canada
- Read the CCDI’s September 30, 2022 Commemoration Guide to learn how to respectfully commemorate Orange Shirt Day
- Read the YMCA Greater Toronto’s “Marking Orange Shirt Day 2022” blogpost
- Choose your path and next steps towards reconciliation
- Learn more about Indigenous governance, water insecurity, and more from the Yellowhead Institute