The B.C. government and the Orange Shirt Society are joining forces to highlight the inter-generational impact of residential schools on children by raising awareness of the Orange Shirt Day campaign.
Government members will be joined by Orange Shirt Society president Phyllis Webstad on the steps of the B.C. Parliament Buildings to highlight the campaign, which sends a message that “Every Child Matters.”
The Orange Shirt Day campaign was founded on Webstad’s experiences of being sent to St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake in 1973 at age six. She wore a treasured orange shirt bought by her grandmother, but was stripped of the shirt when she arrived at the school. She never wore it again, but in later years, used its symbolism as the foundation of her campaign.
Orange Shirt Day occurs annually on Sept. 30 and government members took advantage of the nearest day the legislature was in session prior to the campaign day to raise the profile of this important issue.
Since the campaign began in 2013, Orange Shirt Day events happen throughout B.C. and Canada to raise awareness of the treatment of children at residential schools, and to pass the stories and history of that period onto today’s children.
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on us to redress the legacy of residential schools. Wearing an orange shirt doesn’t erase the trauma, but it can raise awareness of experiences that Indigenous children should never have endured and whose impact Indigenous families still live with today. I stand in humble solidarity with Residential School Survivors and their families. Phyllis and all those who are raising awareness about this important issue have my deepest respect.”
Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“Residential schools have had a multi-generational impact, and for too long, there have been system-wide assumptions and child-welfare practices that have failed First Nations children, their families and communities. We recognize that when an Indigenous child is removed from his or her home, that child is uprooted from not only their family, but their community and their culture as well. Honouring Orange Shirt Day underscores the shift government needs to make in our relationship with B.C.’s Indigenous peoples as we strive to create better outcomes and brighter futures for all children and families in B.C.”
Phyllis Webstad, president, Orange Shirt Society –
“I am humbled and honoured that my orange shirt story is important to so many people and that it is a vehicle for change. My orange shirt story opens the door to discussion on a not so easy to talk about subject –– Indian residential schools. Seeing the children in their orange shirts and learning about the true history of Canada’s First People gives me hope that the lives of my grandsons will be different and better than what I have experienced in my life.
"I am excited to be asked to sit in the legislature to receive acknowledgement for my orange shirt story. I never liked the colour orange because it brought back memories of a time when I felt that I didn’t matter to anyone. It’s still not my favourite colour, but I’ve learned to embrace it in a positive way and remind myself that I do matter.”
Orange Shirt Day: http://www.orangeshirtday.org/