July 13, 2021: In honour of the children who died at residential schools and in recognition of the survivors and their families, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) will be changing the colour of its logo to orange until Orange Shirt Day on September 30. Beyond the symbolic, the orange logo also signifies our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. For too long, First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have lived the impacts of systemic racism and colonialism which affects their mental health and well-being.

In 1973, 6-year-old Phyllis (Jack) Webstad was forcibly taken from her family. Arriving at residential school wearing an orange t-shirt, a gift from her grandmother, she was stripped and clothed in a school uniform. Phyllis’s orange shirt has come to represent the terrible harms and legacy of residential schools and to honour those who have suffered. The colour orange is also used by allies to express solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada.

CMHA extends our deepest condolences to those who are grieving the many lost children of residential schools and we offer our loving support to those who have been traumatized and retraumatized. We also pledge to help dismantle the racist and colonial practices that are embedded in the mental health system, and in our own history, in the following ways:

  • CMHA will engage decision-makers to fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, and particularly those calls for Indigenous mental health, healing and well-being.
  • We will endeavour to decolonize our existing work and set new standards to support the Calls the Action of the TRC across the CMHA federation.
  • CMHA will establish an internal Community of Practice to support the integration of truth and reconciliation into operations, programming and services across the federation.
  • We will support the delivery of Indigenous-led mental health services and strengthen our partnerships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations and leaders to create and deliver Indigenous-led mental health programs and services that are rooted in the principles of cultural safety and self-determination.
  • We will increase access to Indigenous cultural awareness training for staff members.

There is so much more to do, but we hope that CMHA’s orange logo will stand as a sign of our strong commitment as we work with determination toward reconciliation.

To learn more about Orange Shirt Day; https://www.orangeshirtday.org/about-us.html

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