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Honouring and remembering Indigenous lives: Orange Shirt Day and Sisters in Spirit

Posted on September 28, 2020

Two-sided image: man wearing orange shirt, woman wearing red dress


A special message from VCC president Ajay Patel

Dear VCC community,

I would like to acknowledge, with gratitude, that we work, live, and learn on the traditional unceded territories of the x?m?θk??y??m (Musqueam), S?wx?wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and s?l?ilw??ta?? (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. 

Today, I ask you to join me in recognizing two important days: Orange Shirt Day (Sept. 30) and the Sisters in Spirit Vigil (Oct. 4). 

Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the physical, psychological, and cultural impact that the Residential School system had, and continues to have, on our Indigenous colleagues, their families, and our broader Indigenous community. 

Although the doors to Indian Residential Schools are now closed, part of our collective work towards Truth and Reconciliation is to recognize the trauma associated with our colonial-style educational institutions and systems, and alter them in a way that works to build trust and ensure safety for Indigenous learners. 

In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “Education brought us here, education will help us get away from this.”

As we honour this day together, I invite you to watch this video from Toni Gladstone, our Senior Indigenous Engagement Advisor, as she shares her thoughts on Orange Shirt day and reflects on her own experience in Residential Day School. 

On behalf of the senior leadership team at VCC, I hope you will join us in wearing orange shirts on Sept. 30 as a way to honour of all those who were lost and those who continue to live with the impacts of the Residential School system.  

The Sisters in Spirit Vigil is another important date within this week. Annually, we pause on Oct. 4 to honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (#MMIWG) in Canada. These are daughters, mothers, sisters, wives, nieces, cousins, and friends of those in our community, and we must not forget the anguish of those who grieve them and the lost potential of the lives that were stolen. 

At VCC, we will continue our work towards creating safe and empowering environments for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis learners, particularly women and girls. I am so proud of our Indigenous Education and Community Engagement team, who actively works to support Indigenous learners. Their work helps to build relationships and create opportunities for learning and sharing together.

I strongly encourage you to learn more about Orange Shirt Day and the Sisters in Spirit Vigil using the links below.



Ajay Patel
President and CEO
Vancouver Community College

About Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day began out of the lived experience of Phyllis Webstad. As a child living in B.C., Phyllis was taken from her family and sent to a Residential School. One of her strongest memories was of having all her possessions taken from her, including her beloved orange shirt. Phyllis’ story has become a symbol of Truth and Reconciliation, and Sept. 30 is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the history of Residential Schools in Canada. 

About Sisters in Spirit

The Sisters in Spirit Vigil, held annually on Oct. 4, is a day where we honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (#MMIWG). The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has worked for more than four decades to document the systemic violence impacting Indigenous women, girls, their families, and communities. 

In 2019, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was unable to determine an exact number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada, but estimates are in the thousands, and the report labels this as “genocide.”