ETFO is committed to promoting Reconciliation in our schools, across the province, and beyond. As an organization, we have endorsed the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). September 30 is Orange Shirt Day and it provides us with another opportunity to recognize the survivors of the residential school system and teach our students the truths of Canadian history. Because Orange Shirt Day falls on a Sunday this year, members are encouraged to observe it in their schools on Friday, September 28.
What is Orange Shirt Day?
In 1973 six-year-old Phyllis Webstad was gifted a brand new orange shirt from her grandmother and wore it to the residential (mission) school she attended in British Columbia. Upon her arrival, school officials removed and discarded the shirt from her and replaced it with a school uniform. This greatly impacted the mental and emotional well-being of Webstad and symbolized that "her feelings never mattered." September was chosen as the time to commemorate all the children that attended residential schools as it was also the time of year that children had to leave their homes and communities to attend the schools. This annual campaign began in 2013 after Webstad shared this experience at a reunion with other survivors.
How should we observe Orange Shirt Day?
There are many options to choose from depending on whether you are planning a lesson for your classroom, organizing for your school, or planning a community event. Some possible suggestions include:
- write announcements to be shared with the school
- plan to wear orange
- distribute orange cloth patches, ribbons, or buttons that can be worn in solidarity
read books that share the experiences of Indigenous children who attended residential schools. Examples include:
- plan an assembly or community ceremony (link to sample agenda)
- watch videos to learn more:
- check our additional ideas and resources online:
Do you have questions? Do you have other ideas to contribute? Contact Ryan Wettlaufer, ETFO-WR Equity Rep. and Equity and Social Justice Committee Chair. Consider sharing your Orange Shirt Day initiatives on Twitter or Instagram using the #etfowr hashtag or by mentioning @etfowaterloo.