Sept. 30 is a day to honour
the survivors of residential schools, their families, loved ones and
communities. Observance of this day across Canada began in 2013 as Orange Shirt Day. The date reflects the time of year when Indigenous children were taken from
their homes to residential schools. It was named Orange Shirt Day for former
residential school student Phyllis Webstad who told her story of her first day at residential school as a six-year-old girl. Her new orange
shirt, a gift from her grandmother, was taken from her. Webstad’s experience
now symbolizes the stripping away of Indigenous children’s culture and freedom.
Earlier this year, the Canadian government established a new statutory holiday
to coincide with Orange Shirt Day. The National
Day for Truth and Reconciliation answers one of the 94 calls to action cited in the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission’s final report, which is to “ensure that public commemoration of the
history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the
For BCNU members and staff, Sept. 30 offers us an opportunity to reflect on,
and begin to undo, the colonial harms perpetrated in residential schools which
continue to be experienced by Indigenous peoples in our health-care system.
Today, we recommit to decolonizing health care and ensuring cultural safety for
all Indigenous peoples. We are also committed to addressing anti-Indigenous
racism in our health-care system while remaining steadfast on our path to a
genuine and just process of truth and reconciliation.
If you are a First Nations, Inuit or Metis member in need of a safe place to
address the legacy of discrimination and racism that has affected you, please
consider connecting with the BCNU Indigenous Leadership Circle (ILC). The ILC
can help you identify and meet your needs as an Indigenous person working in
health care. To learn more about the ILC, please visit our
Former residential school students can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis
referral services and information on other health supports from the Government
Indigenous peoples across Canada can also go to The Hope for
Wellness Help Line 24-7 to access counselling services and crisis intervention. Call the toll-free
help line at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat.
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