Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice    Indigenous Culture & Heritage

Honouring Orange Shirt Day – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30

This post will discuss the history of September 30/Orange Shirt Day/National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, share resources to help you learn, reflect, and take action, and will share how the BCMA plans to recognize the date.

September 30 is a federal holiday called National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The BC Museums Association urges our members, museums, and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast to use September 30 as an opportunity to learn, reflect, make connections, and take action in redressing more than 150 years of injustice.


What is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

On Jul 20, 2021, the Government of Canada declared September 30 the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal statutory holiday in order to allow public servants the opportunity “to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools.” The declaration of this holiday is in response to Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action No. 80, calling for the creation of a statutory holiday “to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”. 

The Province of British Columbia has not yet declared September 30 as a province-wide statutory holiday, but has declared the date a “day of commemoration.” This means that some public and private sector employers will stop operations on that day, but decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis (for an overview of what other provinces are doing on September 30, visit this page from the Government of Canada).

Many labour unions in BC are fighting to have September 30 recognized as a statutory holiday; to learn more, visit: 

Museums, galleries, and cultural organizations that are not operated by federal, provincial, or local governments are not legally required to close on September 30 this year, but we urge all BCMA members to use this day as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and take action in support of truth and reconciliation.

Is Orange Shirt Day the Same as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation?

Since 2013, the Orange Shirt Society, a not-for-profit organization located in Williams Lake BC, has used Orange Shirt Day (September 30) as a day to recognize the ongoing harm that the residential school system has inflicted upon Indigenous communities. The date was chosen because it represents the time of the year that children were taken from their homes and moved into residential schools. The orange shirt itself comes from a story told by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, remembering her first day at a residential school, as a six-year-old, when a brand-new orange shirt given to her by her grandmother was taken from her by school administrators.

If you are able to make a donation to the Orange Shirt Society, donations help Phyllis Webstad and the Orange Shirt Society raise awareness across Canada about the Indian Residential Schools and their continuing impacts on individuals, families and communities, and to promote the concept of “Every Child Matters.” Donations can be made online.

If you would like to purchase an orange shirt to wear on September 30, the Orange Shirt Society keeps a list of official suppliers on their website: 

Vancouver Magazine also made a list of shirts made by Indigenous designers: 

We encourage you to make contributions that have the most direct impact for local Indigenous artists and communities, and avoid purchases from major retailers where funds may not have the impact needed. For example, The Reach Gallery will be selling shirts made by a local Indigenous artist and the funds will be used to support the Indigenous communities of the Fraser Valley. Some communities are seeking crowdfunding, like the ‘Find Out Lost Children’ GoFundMe campaign for Vancouver Island which has provided funds to Ahousaht First Nation to search a residential school cemetery and Snuneymuxw First Nation to search a former Indian Hospital site. These crowdsourced funds are meant to match or exceed the funding the federal and provincial government is providing through their own process, meeting community needs quickly and addressing the expense of Ground Penetrating Radar work. We encourage you to look at local options and support those that resonate with you. 


Should My Museum Close on September 30?

Ultimately, we encourage members to take whatever actions they feel will be the most impactful for their staff, volunteers, and community on September 30. For some organizations, closing and encouraging volunteers and staff to participate in community events or to spend time focusing on self-education is the best course of action. 

But if your site is somewhere community members turn to learn about the history of colonization and the attempted genocide of Indigenous cultures and peoples, then staying open and facilitating community dialogue is the best course of action. 

For some organizations, it might make sense to close to the public and bring your board, staff, and volunteers together on-site for a day of learning (Nahanee Creative offers a series of mini-online courses that you might want to consider). 

The BCMA strongly encourages our members to take time to reflect on what makes the most sense for you – have conversations with your team, ask other partner organizations what they are planning, and reflect on what could be the most meaningful course of action. However, we also caution non-Indigenous organizations asking Indigenous communities, partners, and staff to tell you what to do. Even well-meaning outreach can add emotional labour to Indigenous partners and it is important that non-Indigenous and settler Canadians take agency in redressing the wrongs of colonization. 

There is no single right answer, so look within and reflect on what makes the most sense for your specific organization.


What Are Some Appropriate Resources and Events to Engage With?

If you are looking for resources and learning opportunities for yourself or to share with your staff, volunteers, or community, we recommend the following. If you have an event you’d like to share and add to this list, please email us.


How is the BCMA Marking September 30?

Through the BCMA’s online presence, we intend to help magnify Indigenous-led online events and connect our members with learning opportunities.

The BCMA team plans to use September 30th as an opportunity to focus on professional/personal development and growth that supports our understanding of truth and reconciliation. All BCMA team members will be given the morning of September 30th to focus on learning more about an aspect of truth and reconciliation – this could include, participating in a community event, viewing a webinar, reading a relevant article or book, or going to an Indigenous museum or cultural centre. The team will come together virtually in the afternoon to share their experiences and learnings.