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Queen’s honours truth and reconciliation on Orange Shirt Day

Campus community commemorates Indigenous people and families who survived Canada's residential school system.

Orange Shirt Day t-shirt illustration that reads "every child matters"
Queen's recognizes Orange Shirt Day, encouraging the campus community to reflect on the legacy of residential schools and to join in supporting positive change.

Queen’s University urged members of its campus community to don orange shirts in a show of solidarity with Indigenous people and families who are survivors of Canada’s residential school system. Orange Shirt Day — marked every Sept. 30 — commemorates the experiences of Indigenous communities whose children were forcibly enrolled in schools where they endured grave physical and cultural abuses over the span of decades; abuses born from policies and actions of the federal government and religious institutions.

The national day serves not only to recognize historic and ongoing trauma, but to honour and support truth and reconciliation and the healing journeys of those impacted by these injustices.

“Orange Shirt day is an important day for all of us on campus to acknowledge the devastating impact and harm of residential schools,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “This is a day for reflection but also an opportunity to publicly commit to our responsibility that our country deliver on the promises of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report.”

Members of the campus community were encouraged to learn more about the history of the residential school system and engage in meaningful discussions about their effects and legacy.

“It’s important to encourage learning about the legacy of residential schools so we best recognize the true history of Canada, and to honour the resilience and strength of survivors and their families, and of those who did not return home,” says Olivia Rondeau, Program Coordinator for the Aboriginal Teacher Education Program (ATEP) in the Queen’s Faculty of Education. “Creating opportunities to engage with Indigenous education serves not only to help acknowledge the challenges Indigenous Peoples face, but also to celebrate the beauty in Indigenous cultures. It is all about fostering identity, wellbeing, connection to the land, and honouring language.”

To ensure Orange Shirt Day awareness-building efforts continued this year in spite of COVID-19 restrictions, the ATEP team created virtual tools to promote education and commemorate the day remotely. The Faculty of Education website featured downloadable t-shirt templates, instructional presentations for teachers, sharable content promoting books, resources, and actions people could take to show their support.

Queen’s senior leaders expressed visible support as well, wearing their orange shirts while conducting the day’s meetings and sharing messages of support.

“At Queen’s, we all have an important role to play in working towards reconciliation,” says Rahswahérha Mark Green, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “Each member of the campus community has the responsibility and power to create a more open and just society. To do this, we need to approach each other with a good mind and treat one another with respect and kindness.”

Queen’s sees the advancement of reconciliation, conciliation, and Indigeneity at the university as crucial for the institution’s growth and development.

“As we honour Orange Shirt Day, we must keep in mind that action and education go hand in hand,” says Kanonhsyonne Janice Hill, Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “We will continue to raise awareness on the tragic legacy of residential schools, while also continuing to act on creating positive change as we work to ensure that reconciliation/conciliation is achieved.”

Learn more about Orange Shirt Day and about the work of Queen’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives.