The B.C. government and the Orange Shirt Society are joining forces to highlight the impact of residential schools.
Government members were joined by Orange Shirt Society president Phyllis Webstad on the steps of the B.C. Parliament Buildings this morning to highlight the campaign which sends a message that “Every Child Matters.”
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser says although wearing an orange shirt doesn’t erase the trauma, it can raise awareness of experiences that Indigenous children should never have endured and whose impact Indigenous families still live with today.
He goes on to say that Webstad and all those who are raising awareness about this important issue have his deepest respect.
Orange Shirt Day occurs annually on Sept. 30 with events happening throughout Canada since the campaign began in 2013. It was founded on Webstad’s experiences of being sent to St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake in 1973 where on her first day at the age of 6 she was stripped of an orange shirt bought by her grandmother.
“I am humbled and honored 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 the subject — Indian residential schools,” said Webstad. “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 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.”
A ceremony to honor residential school survivors with smudging, drumming, and singing in part of Orange Shirt Day will take place in Boitanio Park in Williams Lake on September 29 from 10am-12pm.