COMMUNITY: Celebrating Orange Shirt Day

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About Orange Shirt Day

Three years ago, Williams Lake, British Columbia hosted a memorial event for the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) School. Former students were given a chance to share their memories from their time at residential schools, and the community took a step toward reconciliation by acknowledging and honouring their experiences.

One student, Phyllis, told a story of having her brand new orange shirt taken away on her first day of residential school. The poignancy of her tale has inspired schools in British Columbia, and across Canada, to put on orange shirts of their own to celebrate reconciliation in their own communities. Orange Shirt Day happens this year on September 30, and is an opportunity for teachers, students, parents, and other community members to don an orange shirt and open up a discussion on all aspects of residential schools.

City of Edmonton Celebration

An official Orange Shirt Day celebration will be held at City Hall in Edmonton, Alberta. Join us and Mayor Don Iveson at 12:00 noon on September 30 to hear an official proclamation of Orange Shirt Day and hear the stories of residential school survivors or family members. Entertainment will be provided.

Art entries from the Orange Shirt Day logo design competition will also be displayed at City Hall for public viewing.

How can you celebrate?

Are you interested in getting involved in Orange Shirt Day? Here are some ideas on how to plan your own day of positivity at school, in the classroom, at the office, or on social media.

Celebrating in your school or classroom

Safe and Caring has sent Orange Shirt Day informational packages to public and Catholic schools across the province. To celebrate in your school, share materials with other teachers and encourage them and their students to wear Orange Shirts on September 30. Host a school-wide assembly (in-person or over PA system) or small classroom discussion on Orange Shirt Day, to get students thinking about the residential school experience. Ideas include:

  • Watch the Shaw video of Phyllis’s story
  • Discuss what it means to say that “Every Child Matters”
  • Organize simple activities, for example, children can trace their hand, cut it out, then write in the hand something they can do to help others feel like they matter. Display your caring handprints in the classroom or school hallway.

Celebrating in your office

Send a memo to your coworkers a few days beforehand to let them know about Orange Shirt Day, explain what it means to you and encourage participation. If there aren’t any available common spaces, post messages directly onto coworkers’ cubicle walls and office doors.

Celebrating online

Snap a picture or take a video of what you and your school are doing to support Orange Shirt Day and share it on Twitter or Facebook. Use the hashtag #OrangeShirtDay2016 and #EveryChildMatters. If you mention @SafeandCaring we will retweet you to share your event with other schools.

365 days of reconciliation

If you miss September 30, don’t worry! There are lots of opportunities to honour the residential school experience and celebrate human rights year round.

Connect with Safe and Caring at for ideas, advice, and resources.

Now pick up your own Orange Shirt and get started!

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