Adler University will recognize Orange Shirt Day on Wednesday, September 30. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to wear orange to acknowledge the survivors of the residential school system in Canada. Orange shirt day was started by Phyllis Webstad of Williams Lake, BC, who was taken to a residential school in 1973. Upon arrival at the Mission school, she was stripped of her favourite orange shirt.
Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., and Vancouver Campus Executive Dean Bradley O’Hara, Ph.D. addressed the significance of Orange Shirt Day and the importance of ongoing education and reconciliation in a message to students, faculty, and staff.
In 2013, September 30 was declared Orange Shirt Day in Canada to recognize the survivors of the residential school system and to promote education and awareness about its impact on Indigenous communities for over a century. We encourage you to join us in support by wearing an orange shirt to class or work tomorrow.
From the 1880s until the last school was shut down in 1996, Canada’s residential school system forced 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children to attend church-run institutions that aimed to strip their cultural identity and force their assimilation. The effect was cultural genocide – the impact of which is still felt today.
Students of the residential school system faced widespread neglect and abuse, which was examined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that released a report with 94 calls to action in 2015. For post-secondary institutions such as Adler, the direction is clear, as enunciated by Commission Chair, Senator Murray Sinclair: “Education is what got us into this mess – but education is the key to reconciliation.”
We are making inroads on the Vancouver Campus that address some of these calls to action – such as introducing an Elder-in-Residence program last spring; requiring Indigenous training for our Counselling Psychology students in Canada; inviting Indigenous speakers to participate in curricular and co-curricular events; and providing mental health and policy assistance to a small but growing number of Indigenous organizations through our clinical and professional practica. But we have much more work to do. We will continue this year with further efforts as deeper, sustainable change require learning more about Indigenous history and culture and dialoguing with many to build more reconciliatory relations with Indigenous people. We recognize that this essential work will take time and a commitment from us all.
We remain united in our ongoing work to advance a more just society and the health and well-being of all communities. As Adlerians, it is our legacy and responsibility to understand, address, and prevent injustice.