Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day and Beyond

Friday, September 28, 2018 by Elysse Cloma

In the 1970s, six-year-old Phyllis Webstad had her orange shirt—a gift from her grandmother—taken from her by a teacher on her first day of school. Years later, on September 30, 2013, Phyllis organized the first Orange Shirt Day to acknowledge the harm that Canada's residential school system has left in generations of Indigenous children, their families and their communities.

Every year since then, Canadians have been encouraged to wear orange shirts on September 30th as a reminder of how much was taken when Indigenous children were forced to assimilate and attend residential schools.

It’s a day to publicly recognize the experiences of Indigenous people who survived the residential school system and the intergenerational impacts on families and their survivors.

Orange Shirt Day also celebrates the resilience that can be traced through the lives of Indigenous Canadians and residential school survivors.

Canada’s residential schools operated from the 1880s until 1996, and were used to assimilate Indigenous children into white Canadian culture. Around 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the schools, with many of them subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

This Orange Shirt Day, wear orange to honour residential school survivors and take some time to reflect and learn.

*Photo credit: Orange Shirt Day - Every Child Matters

The YWCA is committed to the full realization of equality for Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and has a long history of working with Indigenous groups to provide holistic, culturally-relevant programs and services.

To support YWCA programs and services for Indigenous women and their children, please contact Kathy Lilyholm at 604 895 5851 |