CAF personnel encouraged to wear Orange on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 28, 2021 - Defence Stories

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members will be marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by wearing orange - wherever they are in the world.

The new federal statutory holiday will be observed on September 30 each year, which is also Orange Shirt Day. Inaugurated in 2013, Orange Shirt Day brought together survivors of Indian Residential Schools in British Columbia to commemorate their experiences.

Survivor Phyllis (Jack) Webstad inspired Orange Shirt Day when she shared the story of her first day at an Indian Residential School at age 6. Administrators took away her own clothing, including an orange shirt that had been a gift from her grandmother.

Each year since, Canadians have worn orange on September 30 to encourage discussion of the Indian Residential School legacy and reconciliation.

A recent general order gives CAF members the option to show their support by adding an orange t-shirt, badge, hat, or fabric square to their operational uniforms. The order includes those serving overseas with NORAD, NATO, or other allies.

CAF members are also encouraged to attend related events in their communities and to join with other Canadians in broadening their awareness of the history of Indian Residential Schools.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a federal statutory holiday, but I urge CAF members to use the time for reflection and learning,” said Major-General Michel-Henri St-Louis, Acting Commander Canadian Army and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples. “All Canadians have a role in the process of reconciliation, and we are no exception.”

“Much of our history with Indigenous Peoples is painful and difficult,” he added, “but, by acknowledging and understanding that history, we can be part of the healing process.”

The Department of National Defence has directed military personnel to complete Introduction to Indigenous Culture, an online course, by the end of October, 2021. Civilian Defence Team members are highly encouraged to do so.

“This is not only a time to acknowledge and heal past wounds,” said MGen St-Louis, “but also to gain a better appreciation for Indigenous Peoples today. Introduction to Indigenous Culture is a great starting point for CAF members and it is my hope they will go further and expand their knowledge through Indigenous-led organizations.”

The Department of National Defence (DND) and CAF are supporting the federal governments focus on building relationships with Indigenous Peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

Those efforts are supported by the Director General Indigenous Affairs, who provides policy advice on related issues.

DND and CAF leaders also receive advice from the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG). Working at both the national and regional levels, DAAG members also offer support individual members in expressing cultural, spiritual, and traditional identities in the workplace.

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