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Orange Shirt Day 2021

Monday, September 27, 2021 - 11:43am
Alexandra Gillespie

On Thursday, September 30, we come together to observe Orange Shirt Day – a national event to remember the more than 150,000 children who were taken from their families and forced into Canadian residential schools. This year also marks the first federally designated National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

In the spirit of reconciliation and healing, I invite members of the UTM community to join me and wear orange as a symbol of support for the survivors of Canada’s residential schools, for those who never returned home, and for the families and communities that still experience trauma today. You can also show your support by downloading a virtual backdrop or profile icon from U of T’s Orange Shirt Day site.

By participating and wearing orange, we can demonstrate our collective commitment to walking the path toward reconciliation. I encourage you to deepen your understanding and learn more about the history of these schools and the legacy they left behind. U of T is hosting a virtual event on September 30 featuring Lee Maracle, an award-winning author of several books and a retired instructor at U of T’s Centre for Indigenous Studies and First Nations House. Maracle will deliver a keynote talk about truth before reconciliation. The event runs from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Zoom: attendees should pre-register for the session here.

UTM’s Indigenous Centre has also gathered a list of resources that will enable the UTM community to listen, learn and act. The centre also offers ongoing services and programs, and continues to model a form of honest, responsible friendship that orients our campus as a whole.

In our new strategic framework, as in our everyday practice, UTM has committed to centre truth, openness and reciprocity in relations, aiming to deepen connections with Indigenous communities, to renew respectful relationships with Indigenous colleagues, and to realize national and institutional calls for action. UTM will continue taking the urgent steps necessary to become a more deserving home for Indigenous students, faculty, staff, librarians and communities.

Our Campus Site Plan sets Indigenous placemaking and placekeeping as a guiding principle, proposing multiple campus spaces for Indigenous learning and ceremonies. Meanwhile, informed by the Principal’s Indigenous Table we have allocated the budget and resources for a new dedicated Indigenous building on campus. We are also advancing the decolonization and Indigenization of our curricula and integrating Indigenous elements across multiple academic disciplines. The UTM Indigenous Initiatives Unit, which offers supports and promotes a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures, histories and traditional practices, has expanded its already outstanding staff.

September 30 is a day of remembrance, mourning, reflection and affirmation. It is also a day of hope and meaningful action. On this important day we re-commit to listening to the truth that comes before reconciliation, to building relevant, reciprocal and respectful relations, and to becoming better allies with Indigenous communities as we work together to forge a more positive and hopeful future.