Orange Shirt Drive-Thru Fundraiser for the Indian Residential School Survivors Society

iatse | Sep 20, 2021 |

In recognition of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30th, IATSE 891 is holding a drive-thru fundraiser for the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26 and Monday, Sept. 27. The IRSSS is an organization providing essential support to survivors, their families, and those dealing with intergenerational trauma.

Individuals who donate to the IRSSS can bring their donation receipt to the Union Hall parking lot to receive an orange shirt featuring a design by Cheryl Marion, a Métis artist who has been a member of the IATSE 891 Art department since 1999.

Cheryl’s design was inspired by the work of Haida artist Tamara Bell who created a memorial on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery this summer involving 215 pairs of children’s shoes.

 “The moccasins represent the children who have died in residential schools and the survivors; those who lost their childhood and their culture to residential schools,” says Cheryl.

This event will be the second IATSE 891 fundraiser for IRSSS. The first was held in June, after the IATSE 891 community was moved to action by the horrific discovery of the mass grave containing the bodies of 215 children at the Kamloops Residential School.

The union made a $5,000 donation to the IRSSS, then collaborated with Cheryl to design the orange shirt to help spur on further donations.

Over the course of two days, a total of 388 orange shirts were handed out to IATSE 891 members who had donated to the IRSSS. These orange shirts serve as a show of solidarity with Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and start important conversations about the legacy of residential schools.

“It brings the conversations into the workplace,” says Siobhan O’Keefe, a member of the IATSE 891 Set Decorating, Art and Props departments. She and her colleagues wore the shirts while working on Ivy and Bean.

“One person I worked with wore it quite often and I found that every time you see it then you think about it. It keeps it in the moment, keeps it present. It’s not something that’s happening far away or for only one moment. It’s something that’s ongoing, and I think the shirts help with that.”

Orange shirts have been used as a symbol to recognize the harms cause by the residential school system and to honour those impacted ever since author and survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad shared her story of being six years old and having her brand-new orange shirt taken away from her on her first day at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School. Between 4,000 and 6,000 children died in residential schools in Canada, according to conservative estimates by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report. The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.

Siobhan and her friend Hilary Moses, an IATSE 891 permittee, have been drawing orange shoes as part of their own online campaign to raise money for the IRSSS. Some of their drawings will be featured alongside Cheryl’s on a special banner, to be hung outside the Union Hall to mark the day and share the message that Every Child Matters.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation provides an opportunity to reflect, get educated, and seek ways to make positive change for our Indigenous community members. The union acknowledges that much more action is needed to advance reconciliation within our Local and beyond. In the coming months, IATSE 891 will be working with Indigenous consultant Koren Lightning-Earle to develop a thoughtful and meaningful action plan for advancing Reconciliation within our own motion picture community.

In a powerful personal essay about her heritage, Cheryl calls for all people living on this land to take the time to learn its history.

“In the face of the horrors enacted on our Indigenous people, it behooves everyone to learn the history of this country, to understand what the policies of the government have done, understand why the Downtown Eastside is full of Indigenous people, why Indigenous people continue to live in poverty and then to come up with a plan, however big or small, to do something about it.”


Individuals can donate to the IRSSS here. Bring your proof of donation to the IATSE 891 Union Hall between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26 or Monday, Sept. 27  to receive an orange shirt.

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Help is available for anyone struggling right now. For survivors, their family members and those dealing with intergenerational trauma, a National Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419. The BC Crisis Centre is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in over 140 languages and can be reached at 1-800-784-2433. Find more mental health resources here.