The Canadian tragedy that is the Residential School System is a period of time that should not (and will not) be forgotten. With recent discoveries of mass graves at many former Residential School sites around the country, Canadians have had to, now more than ever, face the harsh realities of this dark time in history.

For those who may not be familiar with what took place when these Residential Schools were active, it was a harrowing experience for the children and families involved. This schooling system was rolled out by the Canadian government in the 1880s and was run by churches for many years following the initial rollout (well into the 1900s).

Their main purpose was to attempt to assimilate or indoctrinate Indigenous children into a culture that was not their own. They wanted these children to adhere to their predominantly white or Euro-centric surroundings. Many children were even forced away from their families.

Students who attended these schools have spoken over the years about the intense and cruel punishments that would take place that left them immensely traumatized well into adulthood.

The damage this type of schooling caused is horrendous. Many survivors have told their stories from this dark time, and families of the Residential School children still feel the impacts to this day. Families were torn apart, culture and heritage were pushed to the side, and people were treated as less than human. These school systems left a dark mark on Canada’s past.

As a response to this tragedy, each year there is a recognized ‘Orange Shirt Day’ (held on September 30) in Canada which aims to bring awareness to the children and families that endured suffering from the Residential School system. On this day, people around the country can opt to wear an orange shirt, showing their support and solidarity. The slogan ‘Every Child Matters’ was also coined to go along with this day – however, it’s also widely used outside of the day (and rightfully so).

Orange Shirt Day, September 30, is also now a recognized national holiday, known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This aims to bring a broader awareness to the issue and helps to educate all Canadians on this important topic.

As we move towards healing past scars, we must remember to never forget what happened. Remembering the tragic events ensures that our country never reverts back to the horrible events that went on during the time of Residential Schooling. #EveryChildMatters

For those who are looking to donate towards survivors of Residential Schools, MacLean’s has compiled an article with multiple places to donate. Find it here:


Article by Heather Gunn