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First virtual Orange Shirt Day event highlights calls to action for Ryerson community

October 26, 2020

“This is not an audience sport. Reconciliation is a participant sport and they are already engaged. The real question is, how are you engaged and how do you want to change your engagement?”

Senator Murray Sinclair

On Wednesday, September 30, Ryerson community members congregated for the university’s fourth annual (and first virtual) Orange Shirt Day. The event began with a prayer of strength, peace and gratitude from Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, Ryerson’s Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Elder Dallaire issued a prayer for the souls of the Indigenous People who died in Canada’s residential school system and for the continued healing of the Indigenous community and all residential school survivors. She ended her prayer by thanking Ryerson University for “standing up and keeping its word on Truth and Reconciliation.”

President Mohamed Lachemi, Dr. Saeed Zoldaganari (Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic) and Dr. Denise O’Neil Green (Vice President, Equity and Community Inclusion) shared remarks, echoing Senator Sinclair’s message that non-Indigenous Ryerson community members must continue to engage and participate with Truth and Reconciliation everyday.

Following the speeches, Orange Shirt Day committee members led a reading of “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt” by Phyllis Webstad (founder of Orange Shirt Day). Despite the heartwarming teamwork from the committee, the reading served as a reminder for the Ryerson community of the somber truth of the residential school system in Canada.

How you can engage in Truth and Reconciliation through self-education

To continue to actively participate and engage with Truth and Reconciliation, we recommend resources for self-education from Indigenous authors to help you along your journey.

Additional ways to get involved in Truth and Reconciliation at Ryerson

Ryerson community members are also encouraged to familiarize themselves with the university’s PDF fileTruth and Reconciliation Community Consultation report which outlines the community’s foundation for next steps towards reconciliation. 

Additionally, read the Aboriginal Education Council’s google docstatement on the history of our school’s namesake, Egerton Ryerson, external link, which outlines his role in establishing the residential school system in Canada. All community members are encouraged to stay tuned for upcoming updates on how to participate in the Presidential Task Force.

Report cover of "Truth and Reconciliation at Ryerson: Building a New Foundation for Generations to Come, community consultation summary report"

Support for Indigenous students at Ryerson

Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services provides a culturally supportive environment to promote academic excellence and serves as a place to balance academic learning with traditional teachings and culture. RASS provides  culturally-supportive programs and services, for students, including Peer Support Groups and Indigenous Traditional Counselling. Follow the team on Facebook, external link to stay up to date on their weekly events.

Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services logo

Good2Talk, external link is a free confidential and anonymous service for post-secondary students for 24/7 professional counselling. Good2Talk also provides mental health information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being. Access their services immediately by calling 1-866-925-5454 or text “GOOD2TALKON” to 686868.

Planning to attend next year’s event?

There are several ways to show your support and order your shirt for next year’s Orange Shirt Day event. The official Orange Shirt Day merchandise website, external link sells official Orange Shirt Day t-shirts, where a portion of each purchase goes towards the Orange Shirt Society, external link to support their programs.

Additionally, the Woodland Cultural Centre, external link sells official Orange Shirt Day t-shirts online, external link. Proceeds go towards preserving this important cultural site. Located just an hour west of Toronto, on what was formerly the Mohawk Institute Residential School, external link, it has since turned into a museum and library, as well a hub for guided tours and educational workshops for children. 

Visit the Orange Shirt Day website to learn more about the history of this annual, nation-wide event, and read the heartfelt story behind the inspiration of Orange Shirt Day, from its founder, Phyllis Webstad, external link.

An illustration of a person embracing a child, with the words "Every child matter"
“Every Child Matters” by Lucia Laford

Orange Shirt Day 2020 was led by Ryerson Aboriginal Student Services (RASS) (as part of Aboriginal Initiatives in the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion) in collaboration with the Aboriginal Education Council, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Ryerson Library, School of Early Childhood Studies, School of Midwifery and School of Social Work.

Members of the Orange Shirt Day 2020 planning committee gathered for a virtual group photo on Zoom to honour Orange Shirt Day.

Members of the Orange Shirt Day 2020 planning committee gathered for a virtual group photo on Zoom to honour Orange Shirt Day.

Virtual group photo on Zoom of Ted Rogers School of Management students, faculty and staff in honour of Orange Shirt Day.

Virtual group photo on Zoom of Ted Rogers School of Management students, faculty and staff in honour of Orange Shirt Day.