Healthy Communities

Marking Orange Shirt Day 2022 

12 September 2022 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto

Written by Jenna Robar, Manager of Indigenous Relationships and Christina Sanakidis, Manager of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.  

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society is available to survivors and their families at any time. Please call 1-800-721-0066 or 1-866-925-4419 to access the 24-7 crisis line. You can find additional support via the First Nations and Inuit Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. First Nations, Inuit and Metis youth can text 686868 for access to Indigenous volunteer crisis responders (via Crisis Text Line powdered by Kids Help Phone) and adults can access this same service by messaging 741741.   

The Origins of Orange Shirt Day 

In 2013, Phyllis Webstad and others founded Orange Shirt Day (September 30) in recognition of generational harm to Indigenous children and their families, caused by the Residential School system. Phyllis wore a new orange shirt on her first day at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential school, only to have it taken from her when the staff stripped her upon arrival. This colour reminds her of that day and has become a symbol of the Residential School system. Wearing an orange shirt is a way to honour the children who went to these institutions: those who returned and those who did not.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) concluded that residential schools were “a systematic, government- sponsored attempt to destroy Aboriginal cultures and languages and to assimilate Aboriginal peoples so that they no longer existed as distinct peoples.” The TRC characterized this intent as cultural genocide.

From the 1831 opening of the Mohawk Indian Residential school in Brantford, Ontario until today, Indigenous child apprehension and assimilations continue. Post-residential school apprehension systems include the Sixties Scoop, incarceration, the AIM (Adopt Indian and Métis) program, the child welfare system and the continued use of 'birth alerts’.

Last year, the federal government announced that September 30 would also be a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. It was designated as a day to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. The day was not without controversy and reminds us that authentic commemorations and genuine actions are central to reconciliation.

Meaningfully Marking Orange Shirt Day

As we reflect on the 15 months since the recoveries of remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation territory, we recognize that many nations continue to search for their young ones who did not return home. According to the Two Row Times, as of May 2022 just 25% of former Residential School sites have been searched. While the recoveries at Kamloops may have been shocking for some, it corresponds with the experiences and stories that Survivors of this system have been telling us for many years. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has recorded many of these stories.

As these recoveries continue, the YMCA of Greater Toronto is committed to taking an anti-colonial approach to reconciliation as outlined in our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy. We continue to follow the guidance of our Indigenous colleagues and will mark this day in 2022 by amplifying Indigenous voices and events.

Please join us as we continue to listen, learn, reflect and act individually and as a charity to deepen our understanding of our shared histories, our obligations as treaty people, and how non-Indigenous folks can take direct actions on a path towards reconciliation.


Some of these resources contain disturbing content. If needed, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society is available to survivors and their families at any time. Please call 1-800-721-0066 or 1-866-925-4419 to access the 24-7 crisis line. You can find additional support via the First Nations and Inuit Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. First Nations, Inuit and Metis youth can text 686868 for access to Indigenous volunteer crisis responders (via Crisis Text Line powdered by Kids Help Phone) and adults can access this same service by messaging 741741.  

Commemoration Guide 

CCID’s Commemoration Guide for Orange Shirt Day/National Day of Truth and Reconciliation 2022


UNDRIP – United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (PDF)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action

Indigenous Watchdog: Progress report on the 94 Calls to Action

Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Reading and Watch list


Once We Were Many, by Dennis Saddleman (1.5-minute animated poem) 


Stolen: Surviving St. Michael’s(8 episodes) by investigative journalist Connie Walker


Bring Our Children Home  This video with the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre (ANFC) introduces some influential youth leaders and artists as they make connections between the Residential School system, the Sixties Scoop, the current child welfare system and birth alerts. (28-minute run time)

Remember Me Song by Fawn Wood. Fawn is a Cree and Salish musician from St. Paul, Alberta.  (4.5-minute run time)

The Honourable Sen. Murray Sinclair’s statement on discovery at Kamloops residential schools  Sen. Sinclair was the chairman of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He is also a former member of the Canadian senate and a retired lawyer and judge. (10-minute run time)

Stolen Children | Residential School survivors speak out  In this CBC video, survivors share how Residential Schools affected them, their children and grandchildren. (19-minute run time)


SouvenirA series of four short films addressing Indigenous identity and representation by reworking material in the National Film Board (NFB) archives:

  • Sister and Brothers: In a pounding critique of Canada's colonial history, this short film draws parallels between the annihilation of the bison in the 1890s and the devastation inflicted on the Indigenous population by the residential school system. (3-minute run time) 
  • Etlinisigu'niet (Bleed Down): In five short minutes, this short film destroys any remaining shreds of the myth of a fair and just Canada. (5-minute run time)
  • Mobilize: This short film, crafted entirely out of NFB archival footage by First Nations filmmaker Caroline Monnet, takes us on an exhilarating journey from the Far North to the urban south, capturing the perpetual negotiation between the traditional and the modern by a people moving ever forward. (3-minute run time) 
  • Nimmikaage (She Dances for People) Both a requiem for and an honouring of Canada's First Nations, Métis and Inuit women, this short film deconstructs the layers of Canadian nationalism. (3-minute run time)  

We Were Children: Warning: This film contains disturbing content and is recommended for audiences 16 years of age and older. Parental discretion, and/or watching this film within a group setting, is strongly advised. As young children, Lyna and Glen were taken from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools, where they suffered years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, the effects of which persist in their adult lives. We Were Children gives voice to a national tragedy and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the human spirit. (1 hour, 23-minute run time, rental) 

Hi-Ho Mistahey! Fourteen-year-old Shannen Koostachin launched a campaign to build a suitable school for the children of the Cree community of Attawapiskat in 2008. Two years later, she was killed in a car accident. Shannen’s campaign became a national movement, bringing people from all walks of life together to make Shannen’s Dream — the dream of fairness in education for First Nations children, in schools that are safe and welcoming — a reality. (1 hour, 39-minute run time) 

The Making of the Witness Blanket: This link includes a panel discussion in addition to the film screening (90-minute film run time). An emotional journey, examining how art can open our hearts to the pain of truth and the beauty of resiliency. Presented by University of British Columbia.

News articles:

Tḱemlúps te Secwépemc fully supports the appointment of the Special Interlocutor

Deal freeing Catholic entities from $25M campaign for residential schools released

Federal Court approves class action on behalf of off-reserve Indigenous Children 


Missing Children of Indian Residential Schools, is a story map that uses data collected from the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) and the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission report) and geographic information system (GIS), to provide a visual representation of the 139 Indian residential school locations across Canada as well as document the search for missing children from those schools.

Truth and Reconciliation Week 2021 Resources, from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) Orange Shirt Day virtual programming

Beyond Orange Shirt Day with Phyllis Webstad, (recorded webinar), from the 2021 National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) Orange Shirt Day virtual programming

Children’s Books

A Stranger at Home: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton.  (2012) Ages 9 to 12

As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie. (2005) Ages 7 to 9

I am Not a Number  Dr. Jenny Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. (2016) Ages 7 to 11

Shin-Chi’s Canoe  by Nicola Campbell. (2008) Ages 4 to 7

I’m Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas. (2021) Ages 4 to 9

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids by Deborah Ellis. (2013) Ages 12+


2022 DatesEventDescriptionLink

Mohawk Institute Residential School Tours
This virtual tour will guide you through the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, sharing the institution’s 140-year history. You’ll see different rooms inside the school and hear interviews from five survivors.Calendar updated monthly
From September 12 to December 15Virtual:

#94in94 Campaign
Follow Circles for Reconciliation on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for 94 daily posts: One for each of the 94 Calls to ActionWeb page for campaign information
Saturday, September 24In person,

Remembering the Children Memorial

At Durham Regional Headquarters: 605 Rossland Road East, Whitby, ON

11:30 am
From Monday, September 26Virtual:

Truth & Reconciliation Week
National program for learning. Registration (public) requiredWeb page
Wednesday, September 28In-Person:

Drums Across Niagara
Indigenous singers and drummers gather on both sides of the mighty Niagara to show their support of Indian Residential School Survivors and their families. 7 pmFacebook event
Thursday, September 29Virtual:

Gidinawendimin – We Are All Related

A gathering for students to hear the truth and come together for reconciliation, hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. 9 am.Facebook event link and livestream
Thursday, September 29 and Friday, September 30In person:

Toronto Council Fire’s Legacy Gathering
Live from Nathan Philips Square in Toronto. Sunrise ceremony at 7 amWeb link
Friday, September 30Virtual and in person:

Remember Me – Day of Remembrance
Live from unseeded Algonquin Territory (Ottawa, ON), and live streamed on YouTube (Live stream will include a screening of the documentary film Water Walker with Autumn Peltier)Website and

2021 YouTube recording
Friday, September 30, 6 pm– 8 pmIn person, Tipachimowin: Finding your Voice, Finding your Story with Michael EtheringtonPresented by The Indigenous Network (TIN)


Program details provided after registration
Registration required / Limited spots
Friday, September 30In person,

The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation & Orange Shirt Day Gathering
Presented by the Indigenous Action Committee and King Township and the King Township Museum.

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Friday, September 30In person,

'Every Child Matters' crosswalk unveiling on William Street at Main Street, Shelburne, ONArticle
Friday, September 30In person, GTA Indigenous Fashion Showcase by AANIN Retail inc.Each ticket includes an orange shirt for the event. The event features speakers, performers, catering and the opportunity to shop.

Stackt Market, Toronto ON

5 pm – 9 pm
Information including ticket pricing
Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1In person:

Survivors Gathering 2022
“Survivors coming together to share a common experience”

Brantford, ON

519-759-2650 x 250 to register (Registration deadline is September 9)

Saturday, October 1In person:

Community Pow Wow
Presented by Native Child and Family Services Toronto at Dufferin Grove Park. Sunrise ceremony at 6 am & Grand Entry at 12 pm.

Poster, with additional info


(Pow Wow etiquette
Sunday, October 2In Person:

Planting Seeds of Reconciliation
Free Community event by Circles for Reconciliation in partnership with Toronto Green Community.

North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, 200 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto.

12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Event Brite RSVP link


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