The Government of British Columbia has proclaimed Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, as Orange Shirt Day, to honour and remember Indian residential school survivors and their families.
Orange Shirt Day is held annually on Sept. 30, a time of year when Indigenous children were removed from their homes and taken to residential schools.
“On Orange Shirt Day, British Columbians recognize a shameful period in our shared history,” said Premier John Horgan. “We honour the resilience and bravery of residential school survivors, their families and communities. We acknowledge the trauma and abuse inflicted on generations of Indigenous peoples. Today, and every day, we commit to working together with Indigenous peoples to heal and build a better future.”
“I am humbled and honoured that the Province of British Columbia has proclaimed Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day,” said Phyllis Webstad, president, Orange Shirt Society. “This campaign has grown far beyond the wildest dream of the six-year-old girl I was when I lost my orange shirt. This recognition is another step on our road to reconciliation, and the incredible response the campaign has generated across the country confirms my belief that that Canadians and First Nations are willing and ready to take this journey together.”
The campaign is founded on the stories of residential school survivor Webstad and her experiences at St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake, in 1973, at the age of six. The orange shirt she wore on her first day was given to her by her grandmother. It was stripped from her upon arrival at the school, never to be seen again. Today that shirt has become a symbol for a dark period in B.C.’s history and is at the heart of the Orange Shirt Day campaign.
Over the course of more than a century, approximately 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and their communities and forced to attend one of 139 official residential schools across Canada.
“The land has changed because people stopped working together,” said Eddy Charlie, residential school survivor and co-organizer of Victoria’s Orange Shirt Day. “Freedom to hear our voices comes from working together. If we have a common goal, we create a safe place where healing can begin. Orange Shirt Day gives us that opportunity to see one path together.”
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, on behalf of Premier Horgan, will join MLAs and members of the Victoria Orange Shirt Day committee at the city’s event Sunday, Sept. 30, at noon at Centennial Square, to mark Orange Shirt Day and speak to the proclamation.
“Until we face our dark colonial past and create a climate where people can have those conversations, where we acknowledge the history, acknowledge the pain and find ways to support moving forward together, true reconciliation is beyond our grasp,” said Fraser. “Orange Shirt Day is a time for healing and to act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools.”
Orange Shirt Day is an event promoted through the Orange Shirt Society, a non-profit organization in Williams Lake.