A handful of hearts hang from the tennis courts at Rutledge Park.
They’re part of an official community art project, where hearts were handmade by residents of long-term care facilities around the region and youth in recreation programs. The hearts and messages are assembled in outdoor displays in parks around Saanich.
But a few orange hearts have appeared in Rutledge, swaying in the breeze as they hang from trees, drawing new attention, much like the cause they’re likely intended to highlight.
It’s a short step to surmise the hearts, painted with place names and numbers such as 180 Carlyle, Sask. and 38 Regina, Sask. – refer to communities where unmarked graves were found. It’s likely an expression of awareness and support for the victims of Canada’s residential school system.
Most communities across Canada saw a surge of orange in the form of hearts, ribbons, T-shirts and the words “every child matters” after 215 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of a former Kamloops residential school last spring.
Since then, more than a thousand other graves have been revealed at former residential schools in Canada.
The federal government declared Sept. 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a statutory holiday to commemorate the history and ongoing trauma caused by residential schools. It is also Orange Shirt Day, an event started by Williams Lake resident Phyllis Webstad, a member of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation who attended residential school in the 1970s. On her first day, they took away her brand new orange shirt.
“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,” Webstad said in a statement on the Orange Shirt Day website.
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