Recognizing Orange Shirt Day at the University of Toronto

Orange Shirt Day is recognized on September 30th to honour the survivors of residential schools and those who did not. The day was born out of the legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event, first held in Williams Lake in the spring of 2013. It grew out of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s account of her new orange shirt being taken away from her on her first day at the residential school. The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.

Orange Shirt Day is an annual opportunity to discuss the harmful physical, spiritual, and cultural effects of residential schools and to learn how this legacy contributed to shaping the relationships Indigenous peoples have with Canada. The day is also a time for Indigenous peoples, education institutions, and communities to come together to reflect on the process of reconciliation.

The University of Toronto is committed to reconciliation and intends to respond in full to the challenges issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The University is monitoring its progress in addressing the Calls to Action presented in the Final Report of the Steering Committee for the University of Toronto Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. New and ongoing projects at the University that are addressing the Calls to Action and the process of reconciliation are highlighted in the 2019 Indigenous Initiatives Annual Progress Report.

We encourage the University community to learn about residential schools and find ways to move forward together. To recognize the day and show support, staff, faculty, and librarians can wear orange, change their virtual background or use an icon online, available for download from U of T’s Orange Shirt Day site. The Indigenous Initiatives Office, in partnership with Hart House, is also organizing a virtual Orange Shirt Day event via Zoom that features Dr. Niigaan Sinclair’s keynote talk. You can visit the U of T Indigenous Gateway to learn about several other tri-campus initiatives for Orange Shirt Day.

Your participation demonstrates a shared commitment to reconciliation and a desire to understand some of the difficult and uncomfortable histories Canada was built on.