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Release date: September 28, 2020

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, the Camosun College community is invited to come together virtually to observe Orange Shirt Day, which commemorates the experience of the 150,000 Indigenous children who were placed into residential schools.

“Orange Shirt Day represents the opportunity for the Camosun community to come together, virtually this year, to commemorate those who attended Indian residential schools,” notes Janice Simcoe (Anishinaabe), Director of Camosun’s Indigenous Education and Community Connections. “It is about the spirit of reconciliation and hope for the future generations. By knowing and engaging, we are all contributing to reconciliation.”

This year, the Camosun community is invited to watch Picking Up The Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket, a 91-minute documentary film (free to watch, Chrome browser required) that tells the story of a massive and detailed art piece created by Carey Newman which is on permanent display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Inspired by traditional woven blankets, The Witness Blanket is a large-scale art installation (twelve meters long) made from over 800 items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings, friendship centres, treatment centres, and post secondary institutions across Canada. It is a national monument designed to recognise and commemorate the trauma of the residential school era (1870 to 1996) and to support ongoing efforts towards truth, justice and reconciliation.

In February 2020, the college sent a team from their Camosun Innovates department to scan the art piece to create a point-cloud rendering of the original, for use to create a virtual reality experience that enables people to engage with the rich narratives embedded within each of the blanket’s artifacts and objects.

“For the past five years, Camosun has paused and come together in the spirit of reconciliation to recognize Orange Shirt Day,” says Sherri Bell, President of Camosun College. “This year may look different with a virtual event but the importance remains the same. Orange Shirt Day enables us to educate people about residential schools and the impact it has had on Indigenous communities.”

On Sept. 30 at 12:30pm, Orange Shirt Day organizers have set up a Teams Live event, for a panel discussion about the film. The virtual event is open to Camosun faculty and staff only, and participants are encouraged to view the film in advance, in whole or in parts. There are elements of the film that are painful and may require some time for reflection. 

The panel consists of Carey Newman, the artist and film maker; Elaine Ting, who provides the forward to the film; Sherri Bell, Camosun President; Janice Simcoe, Director of Eyēʔ Sqậ’lewen: the Centre for Indigenous Education & Community Connections; Sandee Mitchell, the events coordinator for Eyēʔ Sqậ’lewen; and Ruth Lyall the Camosun Indigenization Coordinator.

Orange Shirt Day is inspired by Phyllis Webstad’s story of her experience of having her new orange shirt taken from her in 1974 when she arrived at the Mission residential school. Indigenous Studies students Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray brought the event to Camosun in 2015. The college has since declared every Sept. 30 to be Orange Shirt Day and has committed to ensuring that the college community can engage in an event to remember and learn this part of our shared history. 

For Camosun faculty and staff, please join us for this critical learning experience, and on Wednesday Sept. 30 wear an orange shirt, wherever you are logging in from.


Established in 1971, Camosun is one of the largest colleges in British Columbia with campuses on the Traditional Territories of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples.

Media Contact:
Ivan Watson
Marketing & Communications Strategist
Tel: 250-418-0700

Orange Shirt Day at Camosun: coming together virtually in the spirit of reconciliation

Last updated: September 29, 2020 1:05 pm

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