On September 30, CMHA Thunder Bay joins people across Canada by wearing orange shirts to remember and honour Indigenous children who were taken from their communities and families to residential schools.
The summer of 2021 was a summer of orange shirts as Indigenous communities across the country shared the truth, they have always known that many of the children who never returned from residential schools remain on the grounds of those institutions in unmarked burial sites. These communities are now seeking to honour the missing children. This Orange Shirt Day is also the first observance of a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
For CMHA Thunder Bay in particular, this is a time when we can reflect on our role in colonialism and the residential school system, and our ongoing responsibility to make reparations. Every day, Indigenous people live the very real impacts of systemic racism and colonialism, which affect their mental health and well-being. As part of our own commitment to advance reconciliation, CMHA Thunder Bay along with branches across Ontario have been engaging in meaningful partnerships with Indigenous organizations and leaders in the development and implementation of cultural programs and services, including supporting Indigenous-led mental health promotion within communities, valuing Indigenous healing practices and ways of working rooted in the principles of cultural safety and self-determination, and offering Indigenous cultural awareness training for staff members.
To commemorate and reflect on the importance of remembering the trauma caused by the residential school system, CMHA Thunder Bay Branch will:
- Have all staff wear an Every Child Matters Orange T-Shirt on this day.
- Our 200 Van Norman St. office building will be lit up with orange lights.
- All programs will be involved in local or program specific activities focusing on truth and reconciliation.
- Half day off for all staff to partake in local Truth & Reconciliation Day events
Join us as we remember the lives and honour the spirits. We encourage everyone to participate in Orange Shirt Day.
About Orange Shirt Day:
Why orange? Because of Phyllis Jack Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who went to St. Joseph Mission Residential School. On her first day of school, Phyllis wore an orange shirt that her grandmother had given her. It was immediately taken away, and that marked the beginning of Phyllis’s long separation from her family and community, a separation caused by actions of the church and federal government.