Since 2013, Canada has celebrated Orange Sweater Day. It is a commemorative event based on the life story of Phyllis Webstad who had her orange shirt removed on her first day of school at St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, British Columbia. It was the first of countless actions designed to erase her culture, break her family ties and damage her self-esteem.
The goal of Orange Shirt Day is to draw attention to the reality of residential schools and their impact on thousands of Aboriginal children and their families. It provides an opportunity to share this portion of history that took place from 1831 to 1996. The goal is to foster gatherings in a spirit of reconciliation and hope.
The choice of the date is not insignificant. It corresponds to the time of year when children were taken away from their families and brought to residential schools. It is also a good time to start raising awareness for anti-racism and anti-bullying policies at the beginning of the school year.
To learn more about this slice of history, the NFB has put together several interesting documentaries.