Victoria MP Murray Rankin on Wednesday introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons to ask that Sept. 30 be officially recognized as Orange Shirt Day, to remember and honour those who were forced to attend residential schools in Canada and those who did not.
Orange Shirt Day is an acknowledgement of Canada’s attempt to assimilate Indigenous children into colonial culture. Residential schools were government-sponsored, religious institutions established in the 1880’s, lasting until 1996. The colonial experiments forced First Nations children from their homes, forcibly removing their culture and language and prohibiting contact with their families.
Phyllis Webstad, a Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation elder in Williams Lake, B.C. coined the term after sharing her story of having an orange shirt removed from her on her first day of residential school. Earlier this year, Rankin participated in Orange Shirt Day events in Victoria, joined by Kuper Island Residential School survivor Eddy Charlie whose story inspired him to bring the event to a national audience.
The bill is part of an ongoing effort to address Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Calls to Action, educating future generations about the importance of respect and recognition of the roles both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians must play in those efforts.