Today is Orange Shirt Day and Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Many residents across Kitchener, the province and the country will be marking the occasion with learning, reflection and acknowledgement.  

Orange shirt day first began in in British Columbia to witness and honour the healing journey of residential school survivors. The orange shirt represents the story of Phyllis Webstad, who was given a new orange shirt by her grandmother for her first day of residential school. Phyllis did not get to wear her orange shirt proudly as it was immediately taken away along with all of her personal possessions – a common practice at residential schools. 

Understanding the impact of residential schools and colonialism in Canada means we must acknowledge the cultural harm and erasure imposed on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.  

On Orange Shirt Day, we all have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to learn more about this history and commit to meaningful action. Some ways for non-Indigenous folks to do this include: learning about Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land; reading Indigenous literature; supporting Indigenous artists; having meaningful conversations with family, friends and colleagues; challenging people who act in racist or discriminatory ways; and committing to personal change and allyship.  

Along with members of City Council, I am personally committed to reconciliation by providing leadership to integrate inclusive best-practices across the City. Council is committed to continue learning to deepen our understanding of the history and current reality of Indigenous peoples, and addressing longstanding, systemic anti-Indigenous racism that exists in our community and in our organization.  

This year, to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Kitchener has developed both internal and external initiatives in response to our commitment to continued learning. We are: 

  • Supporting Indigenous groups and organizations to deliver Indigenous-led events to recognize this day, including free access to public spaces and through financial support. 
  • Raising consciousness within our own organization by preparing and distributing curated learning resources that staff, Council and others can dive into, encouraging self-reflection and personal commitment to reconciliation, and 
  • Using our organizational voice and platforms to communicate broadly with our community at large about the importance and significance of today. 

I encourage all Kitchener residents to take time today to honour Indigenous voices. Step back, reflect, learn and listen. Honour the unique and diverse cultural heritage of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and celebrate the important and ongoing contributions of Indigenous communities to our community and country. 

Mayor Berry Vrbanovic  
On behalf of the City of Kitchener