Illustration of orange, red and pink transparent feathery shapesCUPE members are encouraged to honour the survivors of the residential school system by wearing orange shirts on September 30.

Since 2013, September 30 has been commemorated as “Orange Shirt Day”, inspired by the story of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad.

As a young girl, Phyllis was gifted a new orange shirt by her grandmother before she was taken to a B.C. residential school. The shirt was confiscated and destroyed by her teacher on the first day of classes. The story has come to symbolize the colonial assimilation goals of the residential school system.

To mark Orange Shirt Day this year, CUPE is releasing a new resource, Walking the Talk: a practical guide to reconciliation for CUPE locals.

Walking the Talk provides CUPE locals and members with resources and advice on how to move forward in reconciliation through engagement with Indigenous peoples, inclusion of Indigenous cultures and languages in the work of our union, and through our advocacy for fair and equal public services for Indigenous communities. Members can download it directly from

Walking the Talk is part of our union’s commitment to educate CUPE members on the legacy of the residential school system, and to explain how Canada’s assimilationist policies and laws continue to harm Indigenous peoples.

CUPE is calling for a commitment from all federal parties to introduce legislation in the next parliament that would make September 30 the National Day of Reconciliation and a statutory holiday. This would fulfil a key call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

What CUPE locals and members can do:

  • Read Walking the Talk and consider how you can support the calls to action.
  • Invite a speaker to your next meeting to talk about truth and reconciliation.
  • Ask for CUPE’s Indigenous Awareness workshop and our human rights course. Find out more at