On September 30, we all came together as a nation to remember the many Indigenous children who were forcefully removed from their families and taken into the Canadian residential school system. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is also sometimes called Orange Shirt Day to reflect residential school survivors like Phyllis Webstad, who was stripped of her brand-new orange shirt when she entered St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School at only the age of six. Webstad went on to become a founder of the Orange Shirt Society, sparking a social movement within Canada that we recognize to this day.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation acknowledges and honours survivors of the Canadian residential school system. Canadians are encouraged to listen to these difficult stories, learn from the past, and act in ways that promote healing for and reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) recognizes the injustices that Indigenous individuals continue to face. The Office of Indigenous Initiatives (OII) has a list of resources that can be used as a starting point to learn more and start conversations about Indigenous experiences.
Additionally, on September 29, 2023, U of T hosted a commemoration for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The event was made possible through partnership with the OII, Hart House, and Indigenous Student Services First Nations House.
The event began with opening remarks from David Kim, the Warden of Hart House. He also hosted the commemoration. Alexandra Gillespie, the Vice-President and Principal of UTM, and Rose Patten, the Chancellor of U of T, both gave their remarks as well.
This was followed by a panel discussion featuring Grant Hurley, Canadiana Librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Mikayla Redden Information Services & Instruction Librarian at the D.G. Ivey Library, Desmond Wong, Outreach Librarian at the OISE Library. The panel was moderated by Angela Henshilwood, Head of the Engineering & Computer Science Library.
UTM encouraged students to wear an orange shirt on September 29 and 30 to support reconciliation. The OII collaborated with the UTM Bookstore to supply orange t-shirts that students could purchase to showcase their support. The shirts were designed by MJ Singleton, a two-spirit Ojibwe UTM student from the Migisi Sahgaigan First Nation. $10 from each shirt will be used to support the “reconciliation events and activities” of the Orange Shirt Society.
In the words of Phyllis Webstad; “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.” By wearing orange on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Indigenous community and its allies used a colour that once represented oppression to show support, recognition, and solidarity with residential school survivors and Indigenous communities across Canada.