Orange Shirt Day
September 30th has been declared Orange Shirt Day, in recognition of the harm the residential school system has left on generations of indigenous families and their communities.
Wear an orange shirt to show your support and to help create awareness of the individual, family and inter-generational impacts of Residential Schools in Canada.
Started by Phyllis Webstad, the first Orange Shirt Day took place on September 30, 2013 in Williams Lake to acknowledge the harm that Canada’s residential school system has left on generations of indigenous families and their communities.
The date was chosen because it is the time of year during which First Nations Children were taken from their homes and put into residential schools.
Orange shirt day is an opportunity for all Canadians to honour Residential School Survivors, their families and communities; and to stand-up against racism, bullying and unethical treatment in all facets of Canadian society, from education to health care.
The “orange shirt” refers to the new shirt that Phyllis was given by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia.
“Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for First Nations, local governments, schools and community agencies to come together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come.”
As health professionals, it is important that we acknowledge and reflect on the social issues faced by Indigenous Peoples and that we understand the historical contexts from which these issues originate. The generational trauma experienced by Indigenous Peoples continues to present major problems in many contemporary Canadian healthcare settings, often resulting in alienation, inappropriate treatment and barriers to access.
In addition to acknowledging the traumatizing, intergenerational effects of residential schools that continues within today’s First Nations Communities, this year, the College would also like draw attention to the history of Indian or residential hospitals and segregated medical treatment that further contributes to this intergenerational trauma.
A Brief History of Residential Hospitals
Indian or residential hospitals emerged in the 1930s from deep anxieties about Aboriginal people and their perceived thread to the public’s health, not as a genuine expression of concern for the status of the health of Indigenous people. The initial purpose of these hospitals was to address the prevalence and spread of tuberculosis, and the fear that the affected Indigenous populations would endanger nearby non-Indigenous populations.
The hospitals were chronically understaffed, and the staff onsite were often undertrained and sometimes unlicensed. The hospitals were also often overcrowded. Practices such as experimental treatment, or painful and disabling surgeries were prevalent, even at a time when general hospitals where switching to less invasive treatments for TB.
The hospitals were a method of segregation and restriction and operated in the same way as reserves and residential schools, working as part of the same colonial system.
While these hospitals were all closed or converted in the 1970s and 1980s, unethical and racist treatment toward Indegenous Peoples unfortunately persists in contemporary healthcare environments.
On June 19, 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix to lead an investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in emergency departments in BC. The investigation was launched after allegations that staff in one or more ERs were alleged to have played a racist “game” involving guessing the blood alcohol content of patients, in particular Indigenous patients.
“Unethical and racist behaviour has no place in our society, or in our health care system. Disgraceful behaviour toward individuals who are seeking help within our health care system undermines trust in all health care professionals.”
As stewards of public health and safety in Canada, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and understand how both systemic racism and discrimination toward Indigenous Peoples, continues to have an adverse affect on the health and wellness of these communities.
Learning about and understanding the impacts of residential schools and hospitals on Canada’s First Nations communities continues to be an important first step toward making our health system more culturally safe for Indigenous Peoples in BC.
Explore the following resources to help make our health system more culturally safe:
- San’Yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Course
- Cultural Safety and Cultural Humility Webinars
- First Nations Health Authority Cultural Humility Portal
- Truth and Reconciliation report
- Health Inequalities and Social Determinants of Aboriginal Peoples' Health report
- BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
- #IndigenousReads reading list
- The Story of Orange Shirt Day
- BC Health Regulators support full investigation into allegations of racism within BC’s emergency rooms
- Minister’s statement on Province’s response to allegations of racism in health-care system
- Addressing Racism: An independent investigation into Indigenous-specific discrimination in B.C. health care
- National Indigenous Peoples Day (CPBC)
CULTURAL SAFETY AND HUMILITY
Orange Shirt Day reinforces the College’s commitment to improving BC pharmacy professionals’ work with First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples through the “Declaration of Cultural Safety and Humility in Health Services Delivery for First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples in BC” signed by College Registrar, Bob Nakagawa, on March 1, 2017.
The College recognizes that making impactful change requires working together with the First Nations Health Authority, other health regulators, pharmacy associations, First Nations groups, and others to act on its plan and create a healthcare environment free of racism and discrimination, where individuals feel safe and respected. It is also a journey of learning about the culture and experiences of Indigenous Peoples in BC.
Learn more about our commitment at:
CULTURAL SAFETY AND HUMILITY READLINKS SERIES
Learn about the culture and experiences of First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples in BC, the importance of acknowledging racism in healthcare, and the role of cultural humility and safety in providing care in this Cultural Safety and Humility ReadLinks Series. The series also captures the College's journey in learning about cultural safety and humility including what we hear through engagement with First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples in BC.