Though a couple of days after the fact, Vancouver Whitecaps FC marked Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with a special jersey patch during their Major League Soccer match over the weekend.
The patch — an orange rectangle with the words “Every Child Matters” written in white — was applied to the Whitecaps’ kits for their match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, Oct. 2, at BC Place in Vancouver. It appeared in the middle of the chest, between the adidas logo and the club crest. The Whitecaps also used an orange captain’s armband for the match.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — also known as Orange Shirt Day — “honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities,” according to the Canadian federal government. It falls on Sept. 30 each year, and was declared a statutory holiday by the federal government for the first time in 2021, in accordance with one of the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.
Orange became a symbolic colour for truth and reconciliation because of the story of Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor:
I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school!
When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.— OrangeShirtDay.org
The Earthquakes reciprocated the gesture, also wearing the orange patch on their jerseys and the orange captain’s armband. Even the referees joined in, wearing orange tops.
The Whitecaps also wore special warm-up tops, and Indigenous singers and dancers were invited to perform in pre-match ceremonies, including the national anthem.
While the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was a holiday across the country, the Whitecaps were the only Canadian MLS team to wear orange patches over the weekend. Neither Toronto FC nor CF Montréal wore anything similar.