Reflections on Orange Shirt Day (2019)

Please Note: 

This fieldnote speaks to the history of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and Indian Day Schools. 

If you or a loved one need support, the Hope For Wellness hotline provides counselling and crisis intervention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the toll-free line 1-855-242-3310 or via online chat at On request, phone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. 

Taking Stock

As I sat down to prepare this fieldnote, I found myself reflecting on the time that has passed since sharing my reflections last year. The release of a set of reports in December (from the OIPRD and Senator Murray Sinclair) on the critical need for reform of Thunder Bay’s police services. The unnecessary and illegal use of force at the Unist’ot’en Blockade in early January (which is ongoing). The release of the final report and accompanying Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. A troubling reminder of the continued pervasiveness of racist actions and ideologies in our society, as demonstrated by recent revelations concerning canada's prime minister. And today, the release of a report in Quebec outlining the ways in which provincial laws, policies and practices have perpetuated systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples in that province.

These reflections focus largely on the actions (and inactions) of colonial power structures, for what remains unchanging and unwavering year over year is the strength of Indigenous communities - as noted in a recent op-ed by Jody Wilson-Raybould “the work of reconciliation and nation rebuilding, for myself and for many other Indigenous leaders and people, has also meant telling the history of being resilient and standing firm in the face of colonization and oppression.”

This past year has also seen the finalization of two legal settlements for Sixties Scoop Survivors and for Survivors of Indian Day Schools, overdue acknowledgements of the continued harms of two systems of colonial violence. Like the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) before them, these settlements highlight the multitude of ways in which these systems and policies sought to erase, marginalize and oppress Indigenous cultures and identities. And like this prior settlement, while they serve as a necessary recognition of their horrors, they do not erase the damage caused by these forms of "child-targeted assimilation" in Indigenous homes and communities: 

  • Indian Day Schools began operation in 1920, with close to 200,000 Indigenous children attending 699 such schools until their closure in the 1990s. While operated separately from residential schools (thus making Day School Survivors ineligible within the 2006 IRSSA), the federal government and religious institutions were also complicit in their damage, having been responsible for their operations and their oversight. Survivors note that their shared vision resulted in similar acts of physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse, as well as a disconnection from language, culture and community. 

  • The Sixties Scoop represented a continuation of the residential school system policies, forcibly removing Indigenous children and placing them within the child welfare system. While the recent settlement covers cases through the 1980s, canada’s child welfare policies continue to disproportionately impact Indigenous communities - while Indigenous children are 7.7% of the child population in canada, 52.2% of children in care are Indigenous. 

On this Orange Shirt Day, we must acknowledge the toll these legal cases have taken upon Survivors over the past year. With the Sixties Scoop Foundation beginning to hold engagement sessions with Survivors and the process for Indian Day School settlement claims underway, we must also advocate for sustainably-sourced supports in the years ahead, and for the establishment of culturally safe spaces for sharing and healing. 

To Honour is to Act

The central message of Orange Shirt Day, which stems from the experience of Phyllis Webstad of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation at the Mission residential school, is that every child matters

“The annual Orange Shirt Day on September 30th opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of Residential Schools. It is an opportunity to create meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind.  A discussion all Canadians can tune into and create bridges with each other for reconciliation. A day for survivors to be reaffirmed that they matter, and so do those that have been affected. Every Child Matters, even if they are an adult, from now on.” 

- The Orange Shirt Society

This Orange Shirt Day, we must not, and cannot, lose the momentum of this work. To fully understand the history of this place we now call canada. To recognize the continued impacts of this history. And to honour Survivors. 

To honour is to act. To amplify Indigenous voices. To continue to identify those ways in which we can challenge our own forms of complicity within the colonial system. And to demand the necessary action and reforms from our elected officials (particularly within an election year). 

To mark Orange Shirt Day this year, I’ve made a contribution to the Orange Shirt Day Society (see below for how to support), and will be setting aside time to read another portion of “Reclaiming Power and Place” as part of my commitment to #ReadtheInquiry. 

How are you marking Orange Shirt Day this year? As I did last year, a few suggestions to share:

  • Read and reflect upon the life and leadership of Garry McLean - Elder, advocate and the lead plaintiff in the Indian Day Schools class-action suit. 

  • Support the Orange Shirt Society with a financial donation, which helps to support their ongoing education and advocacy efforts. 

  • Purchase a copy of “The Orange Shirt Story” to share the story with younger audiences. Teachers are encouraged to use the resources compiled by Orange Shirt Society to bring this critical dialogue into the classroom. 

  • Support Indigenous-led organizations supporting Survivors and elevating the leadership of Indigenous youth. 

  • With the demise of Bill C-369, continue to advocate to make September 30th a national statutory holiday to honour Survivors. 

  • Push federal election candidates to make tangible and meaningful commitments to eliminating systemic discrimination against Indigenous youth across governmental services and supports. 

A Different Paradigm of Leading


Our relationships with each other and with the earth are dangerously off-balance.

We know this. We are on the edge of a precipice with the climate crisis, deepening inequity and political and economic volatility, which we are witnessing and experiencing here in Canada and around the world. Polarizing narratives threaten our way forward — manifestations of white supremacy, misogyny and bigotry are on the rise and the exploitation of marginalized people and our planet continue to intensify. 

Yet amidst all of this turmoil there is before us an opportunity to not only step back from the brink, but to pivot and shift course entirely. Away from the mindsets and approaches that were entrenched in the 20th century — the root causes of our climate and social crises — toward ecologically and socially just futures. 

As we all know, this is easier said than done. Despite best intentions, we often get stuck. We follow the well-worn path of the way that things have always been done. We perpetuate and reinforce the very hierarchies and silos that we aspire to break free from. We forget that change takes time, deep relationships (not silver bullets) and abundant resources.

It is never easy. It is often infuriating. And it is always messy.

We are but two of many leaders in communities, movements and systems who are standing here in this critical moment on both the literal and figurative edge. Rather than lose our footing once more, we are consciously shifting to nurture a different paradigm of leading to thrive. A paradigm that is already alive in communities and movements, and that is currently underrepresented across the leadership landscape. One that is feminist, interdependent, human-centred, community-rooted, multigenerational, and grounded in social and environmental justice. 


We are but two of many leaders in communities, movements and systems who are standing here in this critical moment on both the literal and figurative edge. Rather than lose our footing once more, we are consciously shifting to nurture a different paradigm of leading.

We have both seen and experienced this different paradigm of leading already — on the frontlines of the environmental movement, Indigenous rights, feminist organizing and community economic change. It’s alive in those that know what ego is, who put it aside, and whose leadership is an expression of building more leaders. It’s a way of leading that understands the interdependence of community well-being — especially youth — and a healthy environment. That sees and understands the intersections across issues and pushes boundaries to create conditions to work across difference and to integrate the necessary learning to propel change forward. 

If we have any hope of manifesting this transition to ecologically and socially just futures, we must invest in, support and learn with those who already embody this different paradigm of leading. To amplify impact across communities and movements. To cede space and elevate the work of others. To make the shift happen. 

This is why Tides Canada is partnering with CKX to nurture more intentional spaces for this paradigm of leading to thrive. 

We are coming together to leverage our strengths, invest resources and support a platform for leaders and their communities embodying this way of leading to strengthen and deepen their individual and collective impacts. 

How? Through Cohort Experiences — spaces for and access to reflection, training, deep personal and community inner work and co-evolutionary learning critical to creating just futures with the people, communities and movements that are showing the way and bringing these futures into being.

Will you join us?

Together, we can step away from the precipice... and step up and out to shift toward just futures.

About Tatiana


Tatiana is co-founder of MetaLab and The System Sanctuary. She has 20 years of experience leading and scaling systems innovations, creating strategic learning communities and movement building. Co-founder of Girls Action Foundation and co-author of Girl Positive (Random House 2016), she has worked to reframe the narrative around gender equality and to advance social justice and the leadership of girls and women. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees including the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Carold Institute, Food Secure Canada, Exeko, and Actua.

About Joanna


Joanna Kerr has dedicated her career to advancing social justice and women’s rights, a healthy environment, and strong civil society. Prior to joining Tides Canada in 2019, Joanna served for five years as the Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, part of a global network working to stop climate change, protect biodiversity, and advance Indigenous rights. She was the first female Chief Executive of ActionAid International, led the Association for Women’s Rights in Development and held senior positions with Oxfam Canada and the North-South Institute. She currently serves as Board Chair for The MATCH International Women’s Fund, Canada’s global fund for women.


Une autre façon d’avancer


Nos relations les uns avec les autres et avec la terre se détériorent dangereusement.

Nous le savons. Nous sommes au bord du gouffre, menacés par la crise climatique, les inégalités croissantes ainsi que la volatilité politique et économique dont nous sommes les témoins ou que nous subissons, ici au Canada et à travers le monde. Les discours polarisants menacent notre avenir — le suprémacisme blanc, la misogynie et l’intolérance se manifestent de plus en plus, alors que continue de s’intensifier l’exploitation des personnes marginalisées et de notre planète. 

Et pourtant, en dépit de cette tourmente, une possibilité s’offre à nous : nous pouvons non seulement éviter le précipice, mais prendre un virage et changer complètement d’orientation. En nous éloignant des mentalités et des approches ancrées dans le 20e siècle (causes profondes des crises climatiques et sociales actuelles) pour nous propulser vers un avenir écologiquement et socialement équitable. 

Tout le monde sait que c’est plus facile à dire qu’à faire. Malgré nos meilleures intentions, nous sommes souvent dans une impasse. Nous suivons les sentiers battus, nous agissons toujours de la même manière. Nous perpétuons et renforçons les hiérarchies et les silos dont nous aspirons à nous libérer. Nous oublions que, pour que s’opère le changement, il faut du temps, des relations profondes (non des solutions miracles) et d’abondantes ressources.

Ce n’est jamais facile. C’est souvent frustrant. Et c’est toujours compliqué.

Nous qui prenons la parole aujourd’hui, en cette heure critique au sens propre comme au figuré, nous ne sommes que deux parmi de nombreux leaders de communautés, mouvements et systèmes. Au lieu de perdre pied une fois de plus, nous prenons consciemment un virage afin de soutenir une autre façon d’avancer. Un modèle qui existe déjà dans les communautés et les mouvements, et qu’on retrouve moins fréquemment dans le milieu des leaders. Un modèle féministe, interdépendant, centré sur la personne, ancré dans la communauté, multigénérationnel, et enraciné dans la justice sociale et environnementale. 


Nous qui prenons la parole aujourd’hui, en cette heure critique au sens propre comme au figuré, nous ne sommes que deux parmi de nombreux leaders de communautés, mouvements et systèmes. Au lieu de perdre pied une fois de plus, nous prenons consciemment un virage afin de soutenir une autre façon d’avancer.

Tous les deux, nous avons vu et expérimenté ce modèle sur les lignes de front du mouvement environnemental, des droits autochtones, des organisations féminines et des changements économiques dans les collectivités. Ce modèle est vécu par les gens qui savent ce qu’est l’ego et qui le mettent de côté, et dont l’action vise à former un plus grand nombre de leaders. Il s’agit d’une façon de faire avancer les choses tout en prenant en compte l’interdépendance entre le bien-être de la communauté (surtout des jeunes) et un environnement sain. Une façon de voir et de comprendre les liens entre les enjeux, de repousser les barrières pour mettre en place les conditions propices au travail dans le respect des différences, et d’intégrer l’apprentissage nécessaire afin d’impulser le changement. 

Si nous voulons vraiment que s’effectue cette transition vers un avenir écologiquement et socialement équitable, nous devons investir dans les leaders qui adoptent ce modèle, les appuyer et nous mettre à leur école. Amplifier l’impact dans les communautés et les mouvements. Céder le terrain et mettre en évidence le travail d’autres personnes. Contribuer au changement. 

C’est pourquoi Tides Canada s’associe à CKX en vue de cultiver des espaces où l’on étudiera comment soutenir cette autre façon d’avancer afin qu’elle puisse s’affirmer.  

Nous nous unissons pour tirer le meilleur parti de nos forces, investir des ressources et soutenir une plateforme qui permettra aux leaders et à leurs communautés d’adopter cette façon de faire avancer les choses afin de renforcer et d’approfondir leur impact individuel et collectif. 

Comment? Par l’entremise de cohortes d’apprentissage — des espaces de réflexion, formation, profonde maturation personnelle et communautaire, et apprentissage coévolutif si nécessaire pour édifier un avenir équitable avec les personnes, les communautés et les mouvements qui ouvrent la voie et construisent cet avenir.

Serez-vous des nôtres?

Ensemble, nous pouvons éviter le précipice... nous pouvons retrousser nos manches et édifier un avenir équitable.

À propos de Tatiana


Tatiana est cofondatrice de MetaLab et de The System Sanctuary. Elle possède 20 ans d’expérience en tant que pionnière du développement en innovation sociale, pour la création de communautés d’apprentissage stratégiques et le renforcement des mouvements. Cofondatrice de la Fondation filles d’action et coauteure de Girl Positive (Random House, 2016), elle a contribué à redéfinir le concept d’égalité des genres, et à promouvoir la justice sociale ainsi que le leadership des filles et des femmes. Elle a fait partie de plusieurs CA et comités consultatifs, dont la Commission de la condition de la femme de l’ONU, la Fondation Carold, Sécurité alimentaire Canada, Exeko et Actua.

Àpropos de Joanna


Joanna Kerr a consacré sa carrière à la promotion de la justice sociale et des droits des femmes, d’un environnement sain et d’une société civile forte. Avant de se joindre à Tides Canada en 2019, Joanna a été pendant cinq ans directrice générale de Greenpeace Canada, la branche canadienne d’un réseau mondial qui s’emploie à mettre fin aux changements climatiques, à protéger la biodiversité et à promouvoir les droits des Autochtones. Elle fut la première femme à diriger ActionAid International, elle a dirigé l’Association pour les droits des femmes dans le développement (AWID), et occupé des postes de direction au sein d’Oxfam Canada et de l’Institut Nord-Sud. Elle est actuellement présidente du CA de The MATCH International Women’s Fund, fonds canadien qui soutient les femmes partout dans le monde.


Introducing CKX Questions


Throughout 2018, CKX gathered up the approaches at the heart of our agency (reflective practices, place-based learning and deep knowledge exchange) and wove them deeply into our continued development and growth.

  • What values do we collectively stand for?

  • How do we leverage the power and privilege we hold both individually and collectively to advance the causes and commitments we hold dear?

  • How can we live our values, not only through the efforts we’re a part of, but in the ways in which we show up and engage in the work itself?

In preparing to launch  our renewed programming this year, living through and with these questions has guided our steps has held us accountable to the communities we serve.

We know that these questions do not have concrete, finite answers — our response to them will continue to grow and evolve as we work with — and as — shift disturbers. We know that we are not alone in asking or exploring these questions; rather, we are inspired by those around us and before us who illuminate ways forward that are fundamentally different — ways that centre empathy and interdependence —  from the status quo.


As a social change agency, we have both an opportunity and responsibility to share openly, honestly and vulnerably as we continue our pursuit. We can and must use our platform to amplify the voices and perspectives of others. These commitments led to the development of CKX Questions, which we’re excited to launch today.

CKX Questions is a collaborative digital platform for dialogue, reflection and action on issues and ideas central to transformative change. Each season, we’ll unpack and explore a framing question by hosting virtual conversations, compiling reflections and insights through a podcast series and Fieldnotes, and curating community-driven resource lists.

The framing question for Season 1?

“How do we begin to embody the just futures we strive for?

Throughout the season, we will explore: How do we confront issues of access, agency, power and privilege as we look to live our way to just and equitable futures? How do we begin to meaningfully decolonize our approaches and practices? And how do we begin to reckon with the financial roots of the social change sector?

We look forward to learning with and from you over the course of this first season.

Subscribe to our mailing list, add CKX Questions: The Podcast to your podcast feed, join us on social media with #CKXQuestions and reach out with ideas, reflections and feedback.

Here’s to living through and with our questions.

With love and gratitude,

Team CKX


Standing in Solidarity


CKX is standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the land defenders of the Unist'ot'en Camp. In this Fieldnote, Alexander Dirksen shares his reflections on Canada’s commitment to reconciliation and the ways with which we must hold elected officials of all parties to a higher standard of allyship and action.

Last month I spoke at the second RavenSPEAK gathering, a powerful evening amplifying Indigenous leaders (videos of the talks can be viewed here). My talk, entitled “Decolonizing Reconciliation,” was written as a means of personally processing my mounting frustration and disappointment with a federal government that came to power promising a fundamentally different relationship with Indigenous peoples.

As I reflected on these campaign commitments and our current realities (from a failure to respond to the Jordan’s Principle to a pipeline purchased without Indigenous consent), I grappled with how this reconciliation rhetoric is failing to translate into tangible action, reform or justice.

As we enter an election year, the past two weeks were a stark reminder of how little has changed when we speak of structural political power, accountability and responsibility in this country:


As I joined those marching in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation across the country last week (following the arrests of over a dozen people, including elders, on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory), our prime minister hurriedly shifted venues for a meeting with Indigenous leaders to avoid protesters. He took no questions from media. During a pre-election stop in Kamloops, B.C. later that week, he finally broke his silence on the armed and forcible removal of land defenders, suggesting that it was “not an ideal situation.” When asked whether he would visit the Wet’suwet’en Nation during his B.C. travels, he instead stressed the need to “try and reduce the temperature a bit.”

What the prime minister did not mention in his calculated remarks was that the Unist’ot’en Camp has existed since 2009, serving as a space for healing retreats and culture camps (“Heal the People, Heal the Land serves as a powerful testament to the healing fostered through the camp). Nor did he address that the unceded territories upon which the camp stands are at the heart of the historic Delgamuukw Case of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations, which affirmed the rights of Indigenous peoples to their ancestral territories.

Whose laws, whose order and ultimately, whose interests are being upheld by our federal government? In a country of historical and modern treaty, Section 35 rights, and legal precedent (including the Tsilhqot’in decision), what do the images of militarized police forces challenging peaceful protesters tell us about the state of “reconciliation” in this country? Where I hoped to see signs of change, I instead see echoes of the Oka Crisis, with elected officials siding with industry and economic interests over unwavering ancestral rights.

Photo credit: Solidarity with Unist'ot'en by  Tony Webster  (no changes made).

Photo credit: Solidarity with Unist'ot'en by Tony Webster (no changes made).

Cabinet Shuffle

This week’s Cabinet shuffle is a telling development, particularly in an election year. Canada’s first Indigenous Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, moved to Veteran’s Affairs, while Minister of Indigenous Services, Jane Philpott, was shifted from the role she held since the establishment of the department in 2017 to the Treasury Board. If the federal government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples is so sacred, why shift the ministers overseeing the portfolios most directly responsible for charting a new path forward? For work rooted so deeply in relationship, it is not merely a matter of picking up where one has left off around such critical files.

That the shuffle came as a surprise to some Indigenous leaders (as did the dissolution of INAC in 2017) reveals a continued lack of meaningful consultation and transparency in a self-proclaimed era of nation to nation relationships.

In speaking to these recent developments, it is important to reaffirm that disappointment and betrayal are not unique to a single political party or politician. Our federal government has long operated on the principle that the rights of Indigenous peoples are to be honoured, celebrated and respected… so long as these rights do not run counter to the hopes and aspirations of politicians on Parliament Hill (a truth delivered powerfully by MP Romeo Saganash late last year).

Until this reality changes, the hope of reimagining colonial structures of oppression into tools for decolonial transformation will remain elusive.

This election year, we each have work to do. Regardless of one’s party affiliation or ideological leanings, we cannot be satisfied with tokenistic territorial acknowledgements or generalized commitments to reconciliation from our elected officials. We need action and specificity from those seeking our vote:

  • What does reconciliation mean to you personally, outside of your party platform?

  • How have you embodied meaningful allyship through advocacy and action in your own life?

  • Are you willing and ready to leverage your power and privileges to challenge the status quo, even if it impacts your poll numbers or future electability? What would this look like specifically in this riding and in your role?

Ongoing acts of solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation across the country reflect a growing understanding of and commitment to reconciliation by a growing number of Canadians. It’s now time to carry this energy into the election.

No elected official should receive our vote unless they are able to clearly articulate the ways in which they will serve in allyship and relationship with Indigenous peoples and Nations.

As campaign platforms are assembled, we must keep these critical questions at the forefront of our political discourse, making it clear that it is the interconnected issues of land, water and lives that matter most.

Ways to Stand in Solidarity

As we mark our calendars for the fall election (October 21, 2019), there are tangible things you can do today to stand in solidarity:

As a social change agency, CKX emboldens shift disturbers with opportunities for reflective practices, place-based learning and deep knowledge exchange to spark fundamental shifts in our society. Our Fieldnotes serve as a space to share perspectives, insights, lessons learned and calls to action around the types of fundamental shifts we seek to support through our work.