CUPE Local 500 > News/Media > Local News > September 30 is Orange Shirt Day

September 30 is Orange Shirt Day

September 29, 2020 at 9:33 AM

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CUPE members are encouraged to honour the survivors of the residential school system by wearing orange shirts on September 30.

Since 2013, September 30 has been commemorated as “Orange Shirt Day”, inspired by the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad.

As a young girl, Phyllis was gifted a new orange shirt by her grandmother before she was taken to a B.C. residential school. The shirt was confiscated and destroyed by her teacher on the first day of classes. The story has come to symbolize the colonial assimilation goals of the residential school system.

The orange shirt taken from one child is a symbol of the many losses experienced by thousands of indigenous students, their families and communities over several generations. Wearing the colour orange is a way to acknowledge losses of family, language, culture, freedom, parenting, self-esteem and worth – and the painful experiences of abuse and neglect that undermine children’s self-esteem.

I hope you will join CUPE members across Canada in wearing an orange shirt on September 30th and take some time to reflect on responsibilities to fostering reconciliation in our schools, our communities and in our union. 

Orange Shirt Day Resources

Learn more about Orange Shirt Day, listings for events in your area, and more about Phyllis Jack Webstad’s story at orangeshirtday.org.

CUPE’s Walking the Talk: a practical guide to reconciliation for CUPE locals is available online at cupe.ca. This guide provides CUPE locals and members with key resources to better acknowledge and include Indigenous members in our union, and to help locals and members take concrete action towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (nctr.ca) the permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It has an extensive collection of education resources on the legacy of residential schools. The NCTR is also hosting Every Child Matters, an online event for youth grades 5-12 on September 30, 2020.