Orange Shirt Day is September 30 – Join the College and Support Cultural Safety and Humility in BC!
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 and help create awareness of the individual, family and inter-generational impacts of Residential Schools in Canada.
The “orange shirt” refers to the new shirt that Orange Shirt Day founder, Phyllis Webstad, was given by her grandmother for her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia.
Learning about and understanding the impacts of residential schools on Canada’s First Nations communities is an important step toward making our health system more culturally safe for First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples in BC.
A Brief History of Residential Schools
Residential schools were government-sponsored, church-run schools established to aggressively integrate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture and abolish First Nations traditions. Approximately 150,000 Metis, Inuit and First Nations children were forced to attend residential schools between the 1860s and 1990s. The schools forced First Nations children to adopt Christianity, speak English or French instead of their native languages and ultimately disconnect from their own culture.
The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.
The government of Canada has since acknowledged that this approach was wrong, cruel and ineffective, and offered an official apology to the Indigenous people of Canada in 2008. However, the intergenerational effects of residential schools are still experienced today. Descendants of residential school survivors experience transmitted personal trauma, compromised family systems and extreme low self-esteem.
About Orange Shirt Day
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.
Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s Story in her Own Words
I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had a string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!
When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.
(Excerpt taken from “Phyllis’ Story: The Original Orange Shirt”)
Phyllis is Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band). She comes from mixed Secwepemc and Irish/French heritage, was born in Dog Creek, and lives in Williams Lake, BC.
Watch Phyllis’ Story:
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 First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples of BC. Relationship building and engagement with First Nations and Aboriginal communities and organizations are essential in enabling the College to meet its goals in improving care.
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.