In 2019, the Indigenous Council of CUPE Ontario designed orange t-shirts with the goal of increasing awareness of residential schools. Since then, CUPE Ontario has continued to support the Indigenous Council with this effort by making orange shirts available to purchase in the months leading up to Orange Shirt Day.
Recently, we made Orange Shirts available for purchase and, understandably, members have asked questions about where the shirts are being made and whether CUPE Ontario, as an organization, is profiting.
We want to assure you that we are not profiting from the sale of these shirts. CUPE Ontario is selling these shirts at cost and is paying to ship them across the province.
Regarding our supplier, CUPE Ontario has always used unionized workplaces for t-shirts and other swag and, over the years, we have developed a strong relationship with our suppliers who have consistently and reliably filled our orders to the highest standard.
Lastly, some members have asked what CUPE Ontario is concretely doing to support Indigenous communities. Knowing that these questions come from a place of genuine concern, CUPE Ontario respectfully points to the work that it has done in solidarity with Grassy Narrows, 1492 Landback Lane, residential school survivors, our participation in River Runs, as well as our many efforts to amplify the demands of Indigenous people and Indigenous-led organizations such as Idle No More and The Faceless Dolls Project.
We recognize this is a time of tremendous grief and distress for Indigenous Peoples and, as such, we joined calls to recognize July 1, 2021 as a day of mourning and a time to reflect upon Canada’s ongoing history of Indigenous genocide. Out of respect for, and in solidarity with, those grieving, we will be temporarily halting sales of orange shirts. The supplier is donating a portion of the proceeds to an organization recommended by the Indigenous Council—The Orange Shirt Society at orangeshirtday.org. CUPE Ontario will continue to provide financial and other in-kind support to Indigenous organizations.
While CUPE Ontario and the Indigenous Council are encouraged by the increased interest Orange Shirts, and the growing awareness of residential schools that they represent, we also recognize that at this exact moment, people are asking for time and space to grieve, and reassurance that the union which represents them stands in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people now and always.