Inspired by the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad, people across Canada have commemorated September 30 as Orange Shirt Day for nearly a decade.
As a young girl, Phyllis was given a new orange shirt by her grandmother before being taken to a B.C. residential school. The shirt was confiscated and destroyed by her teacher on the first day of class. The destruction of Phyllis’s shirt has come to symbolize the colonial goal of residential schools to assimilate Indigenous peoples.
In 2021, the federal government passed legislation to mark September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The implementation of this new federal holiday is an important part of the reconciliation process that has been called for by Indigenous peoples and by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
The ongoing recovery of unmarked graves sites near the locations of former residential schools has been a grim reminder of their legacy. CUPE 5430 continues to stand with Indigenous communities as they grieve these unjust losses within their communities.