By: Vidhi Bhatt

Co-Director of External Relations 2018-2019

Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters

Phyllis Jack Webstad is a residential school survivor who went to St. Joseph Mission Residential School. One day, at the age of six years old, she wore a new outfit for which her granny managed to save up money. It was a bright orange shirt that had string laced up in the front. She was excited to wear it!

But as she entered the building, that excitement turned out to be a nightmare…

“When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared,” said Phyllis.

The residential school system that lasted more than a century is a harmful legacy that Canada holds on its shoulders,

Indigenous communities were ripped apart, families separated, with kids scarred for life. Many of them, to this day, still go to therapy and healing centers.

So when Phyllis shared her story, Canadians decided to support her.

This is where Orange Shirt Day, an annual event comes into play; it is a collective act of reconciliation, a campaign that takes place to encourage students to learn about the history of residential schools and to honour the indigenous people who carry these scars.

It is a symbolic gesture created to promote the awareness of the harm caused by residential system and to do everything in our power to ensure we move forward in a good way.  

September 30th is around the same time of the year when indigenous children were sent to residential schools, making it the perfect time to remember our past.

The event is similar to “Pink Shirt Day” held annually to promote anti-bullying. Events like these gives teachers a chance to focus on anti-racism and anti-bullying efforts as the school year just begins.

So what can you do?

  • Wear an orange shirt on September 30th

  • Share Phyllis’ story.

  • Read books by Indigenous authors about residential schools.

And remember…

Every child matters.

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