OASW Observes National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Honours Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day is observed each year on September 30 to recognize, raise awareness and support action to address the effects and ongoing legacy of residential schools. September is a significant time for honouring the experiences of survivors and mourning those lost to the genocide of residential schools, as this was the time of year in which Indigenous children were taken from their homes. 

Phyllis Webstad was one such child, among many tens of thousands. Phyllis’ story of being stripped of her “shiny orange shirt,” picked out to wear proudly on her first day at “mission school,” and the lifelong impact this had on her has become a movement. Thanks to Phyllis and the work of the Orange Shirt Society, orange shirts now serve as a visible reminder of the historic and ongoing harm caused by residential schools. To recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools, and in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 80th call to action, Canada marks its first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Orange Shirt Day this year. 

As we reflect on this day, the statement “every child matters” stands as a stark reminder of those children who did not make it home. As the horrific confirmation of unmarked graves continues at former residential school sites, we wish to acknowledge this ongoing period of grief and the trauma this has caused. We also acknowledge the role the social work profession has played in contributing to deep injustices perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. As social workers, we must work to dismantle these practices, actively participate in reconciliation, and respect the rights and self-determination of Indigenous peoples. 

As an Association, to respect and honour survivors we understand that a commitment to a future grounded in meaningful dialogue and action on reconciliation is key. We remain committed to our journey towards reconciliation and equity integration. As a part of this important work, the OASW team recently participated in Circles for Reconciliation’s #94in94 Campaign, reading and discussing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Actions as a group. We encourage all social workers to do the same and we will continue to seek out and develop opportunities to assist our members to take action to decolonize their practice and advance reconciliation. 

Increase Your Knowledge and Understanding:

  • Take part in learning opportunities offered through OASW’s Learning Centre and Local Engagement Networks including Showing Up as Allies, a monthly gathering to discuss how social workers can act in allyship with Indigenous communities.

About OASW
OASW is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary, bilingual, non-profit association representing approximately 7,250+ social workers. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.