Metrolinx employees listen to speakers at a Sept. 30, 2019, event.

A sea of support for Orange Shirt Day

Traditional knowledge keeper shared history – passed along important message.

Sep 30, 2019

Metrolinx employees gathered today (Sept 30) to commemorate Orange Shirt Day and learn about the impact of Indian Residential Schools, then and now

Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 to educate and build awareness about the history and continued impact of the Indian Residential School system. It grew out of Residential School survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at the St. Joseph Mission residential school.

A volunteer hands out a Orange Shirt Day sticker.

Metrolinx volunteers spent the morning in the Union Station York Concourse handing out Orange Shirt Day bookmarks and Every Child Matter stickers to customers. (Sara Wilbur photo)

Orange Shirt Day has become an opportunity to foster annual recognition, remembrance and discussion on residential schools including the continued impacts of intergenerational trauma and colonization.

As a sign of commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, Metrolinx is responsible for adhering to Call to Action #57; to provide – education and training for public servants about Indigenous Peoples.

“Recognizing Indigenous days of significance is a step in the right direction for Metrolinx,“ says Fallon Melander, Manager of Metrolinx’s Indigenous Relations Office.

“There’s a lot of work to be done but, beginning with education for our staff and the public is an important start.”

A bowl of tobacco rests on a table.

A bowl containing tobacco – considered a sacred plant by many Indigenous people – rests on a table during an Orange Shirt event. (Scott Money photo)

Metrolinx volunteers spent the morning in the Union Station York Concourse handing out Orange Shirt Day bookmarks and Every Child Matter stickers to customers.

“The residential school system has left a deep impact on Indigenous people and a dark area on the very fabric of this country,” says Casimir D’Souza, a GO Bus Driver and Orange Shirt Day volunteer.

“As a Metrolinx family member I consider it my duty to be involved in Orange Shirt Day to bring awareness to our valuable passengers.”

Orange Shirt Day is a time for the survivors of residential schools and their families to feel reassured and reaffirmed that ‘every one of them matters’.”

A speaker makes an expressive face while talking to Metrolinx staff.

Kelly Brownbill connects with her audience during the Orange Shirt Day event. (Sara Wilbur photo)

Almost 100 Metrolinx employees gathered at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel to commemorate the day. Traditional knowledge keeper, Kelly Brownbill, led a teaching about traditional First Nation family and community systems and the impact that colonial policies, like Indian Residential School, have had on these systems.

“Ignorance is the real enemy so I’m really happy to see an organization like Metrolinx banishing that ignorance towards Indigenous history,” says Brownbill. “We need engaged community partners – like Metrolinx – to lead us into true reconciliation. Today’s event is a step in that direction.”

If you want to find out more about Orange Shirt Day, please click here.

If you’d like to learn more about our shared history, please visit a local friendship centre.

by Sara Wilbur Metrolinx communications senior advisor, subway program