Orange Shirt Day - EVERY CHILD MATTERSPhyllis wants her shirt back

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day, a campaign intended to remind us all that EVERY CHILD MATTERS... every day. 

Regardless of race, religion, class, age, sexual orientation, level of ability, or class/status, every child deserves the right to feel loved and supported at home and school.

During Reconciliation Week in 2013 on Coast Salish territories of Vancouver, BC, I learned about Orange Shirt Day.  I learned of the frustrating story of an Indian Residential School survivor, Phyllis-Jack Webstad.

"...I had just turned 6 years old. We never had very much money, and there was no welfare, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a now outfit to go to the Mission School... a shiny orange shirt...

I felt so pretty in that shirt and excited to be going to school!...when I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt. I never saw it again, except on other kids..."

Like many other voices and stories I'd heard that week, Phyllis' story shocked and disappointed me. How could any human - especially a teacher - treat a child so cruelly?  Yet that motivated me to look for ways 'do better' to honour Residential School survivors and families.

I also happened to reconnect that weekend with a young Stó:Lö Nation artist and activist, Tara-Lee Gardner. Tara-Lee graduated from our Aboriginal BEST Program a few years ago - and I was thrilled to see her selling inspiring, locally made t-shirts. I loved how she uses a chickadee as her logo; Tara-Lee explained how in her culture, chickadees are truth singers.

Within minutes of explaining Phyllis's story, we decided to collaborate on a project to create and then sell t-shirts. We set the goal to raise awareness and money to support the Orange Shirt Day - Every Child Matters and Reconciliation Canada campaigns.

We crunched the numbers and decided that if we sold #OrangeShirtDay shirts for $20, we could donate $5 from every t-shirt to Reconciliation Canada. Tara-Lee designed a t-shirt with an Indigenous-themed chickadee, and on September 24th she calledto let me know our OSD shirts were ready.

Turning Reconciliation into ReconcilACTION

Promoting Orange School Day shirts was our way to turn IDEAS into ACTIONS to support Reconciliation. We got the news out on social media just in time to support September 30th Orange Shirt Day events.

We sold OSD shirts through:


Promoting shirts provided a way for us to turn the idea of Reconciliation into ReconciliACTION.  The Assembly of First Nations defines the 4 R's of Reconciliation as Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity and Responsibility. 

We interpret this, through our t-shirt campaign, as:

  1. Respect - for traditional Indigenous ways of being and learning...and for the survivors of Indian Residential Schools
  2. Relevance - by bringing their experience to light for today's generation of Canadian teachers, students and policy makers
  3. Reciprocity - rethinking teacher-learner relationships as a two-way process of sharing that respects both 'sets' of knowledge
  4. Responsibility - by recognizing past injustices so that work can be done to ensure that in the future EVERY CHILD MATTERS. 


Orange Shirt Day - Every Child Matters Fundraising T close up


We recognize that Reconciliation is an on-going process of education and action. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission put forth 94 Calls to Action to guide this process.

To learn more about Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, her story about her Orange Shirt, and ways YOU can support Orange Shirt Day - Every Child Matters in your community, visit 

To learn more about First Nations artist and activist Tara-Lee Gardner, visit her webpage here:

To learn more about Reconciliation Canada and the work they do to build "new relationships among Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians — relationships built on a foundation of openness, dignity, understanding and hope," visit

To donate directly to Reconciliation Canada, click here;

To learn more about the intergenerational effects of Residential Schools and to find learning resources, visit 'Where are the Children?"