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Webstad and Sorley Off to Ottawa To Learn if Orange Shirt Day Will be Canada’s Next Statutory Holiday

A residential school survivor whose story of being stripped away of her orange shirt on her first day of school that has inspired the message that every child matters will be off to Ottawa to learn if Orange Shirt Day will be Canada’s next statutory holiday.

Phyllis Webstad and treasurer of the Orange Shirt Society, Joan Sorley will be in the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 20 to hear if Bill C-369 will receive a successful third reading.

“September 30th has been put forth as the date for the statutory holiday. It was June 21st, but the Heritage Committee came back to the House and recommended September 30th so there was two hours of debate last week in the House of Commons on it,” Webstad said.

“We’ll be meeting with the Minister of Canadian Heritage well we’re there and I’m hoping to maybe go and visit the Assembly of First Nations just to thank them for the support over the years and say hello.”

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Webstad who said she usually does not get involved with political matters, said it is important to be there to thank those that put Bill C-369 forward and have been observing September 30th as Orange Shirt Day.

“Ever since Orange Shirt Day started in September 2013, it’s almost like its been divinely guided and this is just another example of that of having September 30th as a statutory holiday, and I just want to be there to show my support and my thanks to the people of Canada.”

Webstad adds with or without Orange Shirt Day on September 30th becoming a statutory holiday, the Orange Shirt work will continue.

“If it doesn’t pass in the House, it doesn’t have an affect on it but it will just bring it into the minds of Canadians I think a bit more if that day of is given, and then they need to take the steps to learn why this is a statutory holiday and what do they need to learn about this day.”

The B.C. Government proclaimed September 30th as Orange Shirt Day in the province last year.

The Orange Shirt Society has secured space on Oliver Street in Williams Lake that will be available to them April 1st.

“There are many people involved in the creation of Orange Shirt Day. I just didn’t roll out of bed one day and decide that September 30th would be Orange Shirt Day,” Webstad said.

“There’s a big long line of people and a story that goes along with it and events and happenings. It all started with Chief Fred Robbins of Esketemc and he was the one that opened the door to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) coming to Williams Lake in May of 2013 and then providing me the opportunity to tell my story.”

Sorley said Webstad’s simple story has become a symbol nationwide and beyond for the impacts of residential schools.

“It’s a story that is true and that happened to her, and it’s a way that people can use her story to learn, and we’ve been told that people heal by the fact that she is sharing her story,” Sorley said.

“It’s powerful…It probably honestly doesn’t make a difference to the whole country if we go or not, but it’s important to us to go.”

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