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Every Child Matters

September 30th - Orange Shirt Day

Editorial Staff September 30, 2020

Created in 2013, Orange Shirt day is marked every year on September 30th. This day is considered to be a day to honour residential school survivors and remember those who did not survive. It is a day for survivors to tell their stories and for others to listen with open hearts. Established in the 1880s under Prime Minister John A MacDonald, the goal of the residential school system was to assimilate and “civilize” Canada’s Indigenous population. The schools were funded and operated in partnership with Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches among others.

In the course of the operation of these schools, over 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families. The children who were forcibly removed from their families and sent to these schools experienced years of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. For many their experiences included sexual abuse, torture and being experimented on. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared the policies which led to the establishment and operation of these schools as leading to a "cultural genocide".

On September 30th, we intentionally take the day to remember these students. Listen to Phyllis Webstad explain why it is called “Orange Shirt Day” and what this day means.

Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters

Listening To Survivors

We honour and listen to the survivors talk about their experiences and the impacts of the residential school system. While some accounts may be painful to hear, we recognize how much more painful it was for them to endure and honour their resilience and strength in surviving. The following resources hold the oral histories of some of the survivors:


Legacy of Hope Foundation: Where are the Children?

Explore the public and historical record of Canada’s Residential School System; and listen to the oral histories and stories of residential school survivors about their experiences within the system and its impacts and legacy. Visit Where are the Children?


Project of Heart

This is a hands-on collaborative, intergenerational artistic journey of seeking truth about the history of Indigenous peoples of Canada. The project examines the history and legacy of Residential Schools and commemorates the lives of the thousands of Indigenous children who died as a result of the experience. It contains multiple resources to help in the journey of learning. Project of Heart Resources


National Film Board of Canada

NFB is a great resource with thousands of free titles to watch. There are many selection specifically related to Residential Schools, if you're unsure where to start NFB created an Orange Shirt Day Playlist. NFB has a wide selection of Indigenous titles, take the time to check out the Indigenous Voices & Reconciliation channel too.

We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice

Orange Shirt Day not only remembers the survivors of the residential school system but reminds us that “Every Child Matters”. This is to combat the feelings of many of the children who were made to feel like they didn’t. One of the ways to honour their memories is to ensure that no child ever feels that way again in our history. It is our responsibility to ensure that this never happens again. Over the past years the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society have raised attention to the conditions and system of child welfare that was continuing to cause damage to the health and wellbeing of First Nations children. Watch the documentary that follows the case before the Canada Human Rights Tribunal as they expose the inequities in the system.

We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice

Directed by Alanis Obomsawin - 2016


The rights of First Nations children take centre stage in this monumental documentary. Following a historic court case filed by the Assembly of First Nations and the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada against the federal government, Alanis Obomsawin exposes generations of injustices endured by First Nations children living on reserves and their families. Through passionate testimony and unwavering conviction, frontline childcare workers and experts including Cindy Blackstock take part in a decade-long court battle to ensure these children receive the same level of care as other Canadian children. Their case against Canada is a stark reminder of the disparities that persist in First Nations communities and the urgent need for justice to be served.

To read more about the case, rulings and to support the work that is being done visit FN Caring Society


Knowledge & Educational Resources

We all have a responsibility to end discrimination

Spirit Bear Plan

End Inequalities in Public Services for First Nations Children, Youth and Families

Developed to challenge the ongoing mistreatment and racism faced by First Nations Communities, the Spirit Bear Plan which outlines 5 calls to action that we all must act to urge our local officials and political leaders to immediately adopt and implement

  1. CANADA to immediately comply with all rulings by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
  2. PARLIAMENT to ask the Parliamentary Budget Officer to publicly cost out the shortfalls in all federally funded public services provided to First Nations children, youth and families
  3. GOVERNMENT to consult with First Nations to co-create a holistic Spirit Bear Plan to end all of the inequalities
  4. GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS providing services to First Nations children and families to undergo independent evaluation to identify ongoing discriminatory ideologies, policies or practices.
  5. ALL PUBLIC SERVANTS including those at a senior level, to receive mandatory training


More information can be found at fncaringsociety.com or on social media @CaringSociety and #SpiritBearPlan

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