Eduvation Blog

Colour Us Orange

Orange Shirt cards hang in the Olds College tipi.


Good morning, and happy hump day!

You may be particularly grateful the week is half over, if you’re still doing damage control after the Homecoming weekend (say, at Dal, Western, Laurier, Guelph, or elsewhere).

Tomorrow is the last day of September, the 9th annual Orange Shirt Day, and the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) across Canada. Some of you will get the day off to reflect, but most of you have been preparing a whole range of campus ceremonies and observances. (Certainly my feeds have been swamped with hundreds of announcements.) Orange Shirt Day has become such a big event that (perhaps combined with pandemic supply chain issues) there is now reportedly a global shortage of orange t-shirts!

I’m going to recognize NDTR a day early, by summarizing as many of the CdnPSE plans for tomorrow, as best I can. (Apologies to those I have inevitably missed! Please don’t swamp me with additions – consider this a mere sampling, OK?)



Truth & Reconciliation

Although CdnPSE has been responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada since they were published in 2015, public attention has been intensely focused by several tragic archeological discoveries this June. (See Insider back issues: Jun 1 “Reconciliation,” Jun 4 “Pride vs Shame,” and Jun 25 “Cowessess Tragedy”.) As a result, before triggering this Fall’s election, Ottawa fast-tracked a new statutory holiday to acknowledge the intergenerational trauma and grief of Indigenous communities…


Recognizing NDTR

On Jun 3, just days after the Kamloops discovery was made public, Canada’s parliament declared Sep 30 would become an annual federal statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth & Reconciliation. (This was one of the TRC’s recommendations back in 2015, so it only took 6 years…) Tomorrow is therefore an official holiday for federal employees and federally-regulated sectors (from banks to the post office) – but provincial labour legislation has not yet been revised. So far, only 3 provinces have officially recognized NDTR as a holiday (BC, Manitoba and Nova Scotia). Most provinces and territories are observing it only as a government holiday: provincial employees have the day off, schools and non-essential government services are closed. (These include Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, BC , Manitoba, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland & Labrador.) Many have indicated that they intend to consult Indigenous communities, employers, and labour groups before formally amending legislation to declare Sep 30 a statutory holiday in future.


Wrong Side of History

Notably, though, there are some provincial governments that have deliberately not adopted NDTR as a holiday – and these tend to be the same right-learning premiers who have resisted doing the right thing about pandemic health restrictions, too. (Coincidence?)

Even though it had more residential schools than any province in Canada, Alberta is leaving it up to employers whether to adopt the holiday, angering the Alberta Assembly of First Nations, “sending the wrong message,” and triggering a formal AUPE grievance. The rationalization from the Alberta ministry of Indigenous relations is that “we must not limit our acknowledgement of the legacy of residential schools to just one day.” Notably, municipalities from Calgary to Cochrane and Strathcona County have made NDTR a permanent statutory holiday for their own employees, despite the province. (As have most ABpses – see below.)

“This is sending the wrong message… To say that Orange Shirt Day… is not important enough for Albertans to stop work, to have some quiet time, do some reflection is a big mistake.”Crystal Fraser, assistant history prof, uAlberta

Likewise, the government of Saskatchewan has been resisting pressure from political opponents, Indigenous groups and labour unions to recognize the holiday. (A provincial spokesperson explains that NDTR “was not one of our Calls to Action.”) The 4 largest municipalities, Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, have declared the holiday themselves.

As you might expect, Ontario premier Doug Ford is refusing to make NDTR a stat holiday, instead encouraging “respectful commemoration… similar to Remembrance Day.” (Opposition parties are promising to make the holiday a provincial election issue.) While some ONpses are recognizing tomorrow as a holiday, many are echoing the province’s analogy to Remembrance Day.

Quebec premier François Legault rejected the holiday back in June, saying the province already has “enough” statutory holidays, and would not create more for any reason. I’ve seen very little discussion of the day so far in my feeds from Quebec (which is probably my fault).

New Brunswick is not recognizing the holiday either, although premier Blaine Higgs said his government was “committed to identifying ways to acknowledge [NDTR] as a day of recognition.” The NB Union promises to file grievances, while First Nations leaders are “disappointed, but not surprised.” (Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John are giving municipal workers the day off, though.) Quite a few NBpses have announced they will be closing for the day, though…

“Stop giving lip service to reconciliation, and actually make this day a provincial holiday.”Betty Nippi-Albright, residential school survivor and Saskatchewan MLA




CdnPSE Approaches

Public CdnPSEs usually take provincial direction when it comes to their stat holidays, but there are a few exceptions tomorrow…


Closing with the Province

It’s hardly surprising that institutions in BC, MB and NS have generally announced campus-wide holidays for NDTR, in alignment with their provincial governments. (See, for instance, UBC, SFU, UFV, College of the Rockies, Trinity Western U, uManitoba, uWinnipeg, Brandon U, or Dalhousie.)


Taking the Government Holiday

Likewise, some public institutions in provinces that have announced a government holiday tomorrow (YK, NWT, NV, PEI, and NL) are closing campus for the day as well. Yukon U is cancelling classes and closing services tomorrow. In NL, Memorial U will be closed.


“Committing ourselves, personally and professionally, to the work of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples across this country is the most vital work of our time.”Lesley Brown, president, Yukon U


Outdoing their Provinces

On the other hand, it seems particularly worth acknowledging the commitment to Indigenous reconciliation that has motivated some CdnPSEs to announce closures tomorrow, even though their provincial governments have not done so…

In Alberta, these include uCalgary, NAIT, AUArts, Portage College, Olds College, uLethbridge, Lethbridge College, SAIT, Bow Valley College – and in fact, every major Calgary institution except Mount Royal U. (The SAMRU advocated against closing for NDTR, because Indigenous students want greater awareness.)

“It is important to remember and honour those who never returned home after attending residential school and to the survivors and their families who carry the burden of this painful part of our shared history.”Nancy Broadbent, president, Portage College


“We cannot forget children who died, the families who were torn apart, the cultural and religious identities that were lost and the souls that were not fed because of the policy of forced assimilation through residential schools. These memories are difficult and painful, but it is important we revisit them so that we learn and ensure that something like this can never happens again.”Michael Hart, vice-provost Indigenous Engagement, uCalgary


In Saskatchewan, uSaskatchewan says it has decided to recognize the new holiday, “although not required by law.” Likewise, SaskPolytechnic is recognizing the day as an official holiday, as is uRegina.

In Ontario, most institutions are open tomorrow but holding ceremonies or at the bare minimum, moments of silence. I’ve spotted several ONpses, though, that have announced they are closing for NDTR. Algoma U has cancelled classes. Centennial College will cancel classes and suspend operations for the day on Sep 30, “in keeping with its focus on social justice issues,” to facilitate a day of reflection and learning for its students and employees. Nipissing U will recognize Sep 30 as a holiday. Remote and in-person classes have been rescheduled, and employees are not required to report to work. OCADU has cancelled classes. (Elsewhere, employee unions and student groups may be pressing for the NDTR holiday, as they are at Queen’s for example.)

In New Brunswick, UNB will be closed tomorrow and an in-person commemorative ceremony will be held. Yorkville U is providing faculty and staff with the day off tomorrow to reflect, as are St Thomas U, NBCC, and Mount Allison.

“The residential school system is not a tragic footnote in Canada’s past. There are approximately 80,000 survivors of these schools alive today.”Lori Campbell, AVP Indigenous Engagement, uRegina



CdnPSE Observances

Across the country, CdnPSEs have announced thousands of ceremonies, speakers, events and activities to recognize NDTR, TR week, or Orange Shirt day, many running for all or part of this week…

Lowered flags will be a gesture of respect at virtually every institution in the country tomorrow. By next year, expect CdnPSEs to be flying the new NDTR Survivors’ Flag, unveiled at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at uManitoba yesterday. UBC Okanagan installed orange “Every Child Matters” banners across the campus this week (and doubtless there are many other examples).


Orange Shirts have been custom designed by Indigenous artists, sold or distributed at most CdnPSEs since 2013, often bearing the slogan “Every Child Matters,” to recognize Orange Shirt Day. Virtually every CdnPSE is encouraging the campus community to dress in orange tomorrow, and t-shirts are for sale (for example) at Western, uLethbridge, York U, VIU, uWaterloo, uAlberta, Mount Royal and Loyalist College. The OCADUIndigenous Student Centre is selling orange toques. Wilfrid Laurier U is encouraging the purchase of white“Save the Evidence” shirts, due to a “nationwide shortage of orange shirts.”

Orange ribbons are also being distributed for members of the uSask community to display somewhere on campus for the winter. (In the spring, the ribbons will be “collected and burned in a sacred fire.”) uLethbridgeis planning an indoor orange ribbon memorial event.

Orange Lawn Signs were printed and sold as a fundraiser for Indigenous students at uWindsor. (Fortunately, the federal election signs are largely down now.)

Orange spotlights will illuminate campus landmarks the nights of Sep 29 and/or 30, as part of “Light the Country Orange,” headed by the NCTR. CdnPSE will be lighting many campus structures orange, including the Learning Library at Nipissing U, Ursuline Hall at Brescia UC, Turtle Island Walk at uWindsor, the Wiigwaam at Laurentian U, Johnston Tower at uGuelph, and campus buildings at uSask (livestreamed), Mount Royal, uWinnipeg, Concordia, and McMaster. (And probably just about every other campus too.)

Online observations are too numerous to count, but include ceremonies planned today at JIBC, and tomorrow at York U, and Canadore College.

Queen’s U will hold a Sacred Fire Gathering and a moment of silence tomorrow afternoon, with limited attendance but livestreamed online.

Trinity Western U plans a Blanket Exercise tomorrow afternoon, “an interactive historical learning opportunity,” followed by a series of focus groups on TRC Calls to Action. (Unfortunately Mount Royal had to postpone its blanket exercise due to Alberta’s COVID19 state of emergency.)

Sunrise ceremonies are planned tomorrow at Portage College (livestreamed on Facebook), but more popular seem to be Candlelight vigils. For example, the Nipissing U Student Union is holding an Orange Shirt Day candlelight vigil tonight in the courtyard.

Smudging ceremonies will no doubt be widespread, but I saw announcements for smudgings at uSask, Olds College, uLethbridge, and SaskPolytech (as just a few examples). Mount Allison U held a sweat lodge ceremony on Monday, and is planning another tomorrow morning.

Indigenous cuisine will be added to the food services menu on many campuses, and as usual uGuelph’ssounds particularly tasty: “Three Sisters Soup; salmon, sauteed leeks and mushrooms with cider cream; bison and root vegetable stew; wild rice pilaf; sweet potato mash; and bannock.”

Nature walks will be held on many campuses this week in honour of NDTR. A “Walk in Solidarity for Reconciliation” will explore the Saint Mary’s U campus this afternoon. UBC Forestry (and other STEM faculties) are hosting an intergenerational walk tomorrow, which includes bannock and tea, Indigenous language activities for children, and seed planting. Lethbridge College unveiled yesterday a self-guided “Lissksiniip Coulee Walk” to explore traditional plants and creation stories. uSask’s Huskies held a 3km “Sled Dog” walk/run (and 8km races) in honour of residential school survivors last Saturday. (Due to Alberta’s COVID19 emergency, Mount Royal U had to cancel its “Every Child Matters March.”) And there are plenty of other examples.

Workshops and Learning Circles are being held at CdnPSEs across the country this week, as befits institutions of learning. These include (as just a few examples) workshops on land reclamation and Indigenous language at uWinnipeg, and on becoming a non-Indigenous ally at Okanagan College and Alberta U of the Arts. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at uManitoba is hosting a 5-day online event designed specifically for grade 5-12 classrooms – and producing a prime-time commercial-free NDTR special to stream and broadcast live tomorrow at 8pm. Many CdnPSEs are encouraging their campus communities to enrol in uAlberta’s “Indigenous Canada” MOOC. (And although it was held Sep 21-23, the National Building Reconciliation Forum held its 6th annual gathering virtually, where 400+ people discussed ways in which CdnPSE can further support reconciliation.)

Panels and speakers will also address the history of residential schools, truth and reconciliation this week atuWindsor, Georgian College, Western U, VIU, Concordia U, Kwantlen, NAIT, Capilano U, Dalhousie, Yukon U, uWaterloo, Algoma U, uManitoba, Mount Allison U, York U, uCalgary, and uToronto Mississauga (among doubtless many others). Phyllis Webstad herself will share her original “orange shirt” experience in Mission BC tomorrow morning, and former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine will speak on “the Road to the National Apology” at uOttawa tomorrow night.

Film Series are largely virtual this year, and pretty much every CdnPSE is sharing URLs for past webinars, speakers, or documentaries appropriate for NDTR. Outdoor film screenings are planned tomorrow at Western. Video documentaries will be screened at Loyalist College, SaskPolytechnic, uToronto, and Yukon U. McMasteris hosting a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School (aka “the Mush Hole”) this morning. Fleming College will release its new “Indigenous Fleming” video tomorrow. uWindsor’s Paul Martin Law Library will screen 2 NFB films online tomorrow: This Was the Time (1970) and Now Is the Time (2019). (I’m once again assembling a playlist of Orange Shirt Day videos – see ICYMI below.)

A Fundraising Concert, “Our Children are Sacred,” will be streamed on YouTube by the Wilfrid Laurier UFaculty of Music tomorrow at noon. Drumming circles and various Indigenous musical performances are planned coast to coast.

Library Resources are being shared for NDTR by CdnPSE libraries across the country, such as the libguide from Brandon U and video tour of its Indigenous Curriculum collection. uGuelph’s Library has shared a subcategory specific to Orange Shirt Day.

Research Announcements timed for Truth and Reconciliation Week include York U’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages, a new organized research unit that will host Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and students. Brandon U’s Centre for Aboriginal and Rural Education Studies and Indigenous Peoples’ Centre have produced an issue of Research Connection focused on the meaning people draw from Orange Shirt Day. UNB is promoting a Wabanaki language app developed by a summer student and narrated by a former elder-in-residence, including Wolastoqey words for the seasons, animals, clothing and hames, a reading of a Huron Christmas Carol, and information on smudging ceremonies.

Interactive Messaging events are planned on many campuses too, in which staff, students and faculty share heartfelt personal notes, on everything from orange post-it notes to t-shirts and heart-shaped signs. Individuals at Portage College are encouraged to seal their notes in self-addressed envelopes, and deposit them in “commitment boxes.” (Next June, the boxes will be opened and the commitments mailed back to participants.) At Vancouver Island U, people were invited yesterday to “create a heart with a message about reconciliation,” to be posted across the campus. uOttawa is inviting everyone to “plant an orange t-shirt” to display a personal message of hope and support. Olds College asked its community to add “messages of hope, encouragement, self-reflection and reconciliation” to Orange Shirt cards in its Tipi on Oct 1, for distribution to elders across Treaty 7 territory in Alberta. In fact, it looks like Olds has been collecting such messages for months, as a “sincere and practical way to show support to Indigenous community members during this time of grief and healing.” The result was a visually impressive display (see above).

Art exhibitions are plentiful this week, including “Lexéywa Art Activist” at UFV, “Winds of Change” at VIU, and an Indigenous Artist Showcase at Lethbridge College. Trent U is unveiling a “Treaty Wall” at its Durham campus, and “Treaty Rock” at its Peterborough campus. (I suspect there are many, many others.)

Campus artwork is being installed across the country this week, such as “The Ring” at Ryerson, which embeds symbols of the constellations, lunar phases, and the 7 grandparent teachings in subtle perforations. SaskPolytech is unveiling a new Indigenous mural in Prince Albert today. Portage College is encouraging people to design tiles for collaborative art installations at its campuses. Laurentian U is inviting the community to renew and care for the Apology Cairn in parking lot 15. (In a related vein, UFV’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre is holding a panel discussion on “renaming and destatuing” tomorrow.)

Indigenization Strategies have been developed by many CdnPSEs, and several are highlighting plans released in the past year during their NDTR observances this week. Memorial U recently released its Strategic Framework for Indigenization 2021-26. UoGuelph is now implementing recommendations from its Indigenous Initiatives Strategy, released earlier in 2021. UBC’s 2020 Indigenous Strategic Plan is now a year old, and will be supported with up to $4M from the Indigenous Strategic Initiatives Fund in 2022.


After every one of these examples, please assume the disclaimer: “These are just a handful of the examples I came across this week, and doubtless there are many more at CdnPSEs.” Apologies to everyone whose ceremonies, events and observances didn’t make it into this collection, but I needed to publish it this month (and keep it to a reasonable length).




Last year, I profiled Orange Shirt Day videos in this space, and assembled this playlist of 22 videos on YouTube. This year, NDTR and Truth and Reconciliation Week are prompting FAR more activity…


NDTR Video Playlist

Many CdnPSEs have shared a range of documentaries and heartfelt speeches, drumming ceremonies and Indigenous dances, and will be livestreaming ceremonies held this week. Some are sharing short video profiles of Indigenous alumni, students or researchers. I’m still assembling examples on this YouTube playlist, but (as of this writing) there are well over 30 examples already.



As always, thanks for reading!

I’ll join most of you in a day of reflection and observation tomorrow for NDTR, so there probably won’t be an Insider on Friday. I wish you all an inspiring, thoughtful, and safe few days!



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