Orange Shirt Day in Williams Lake. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria’s third Orange Shirt Day ceremony encourages education about the residential school system

Public invited to wear orange on Sept. 30

At the end of this month, the City of Victoria invites the public to wear orange and attend the Xe xe Smun eem-Victoria Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters ceremony.

Orange Shirt Day is an event that encourages education about the residential school system and the harm it had on generations of Indigenous families and their communities.

The Orange Shirt Day: Every Child Matters initiative came from a woman’s – Phyllis Webstad – account of having her new orange shirt taken away on her first day at St. Joseph Mission residential school. Her story was told during a commemoration in Williams Lake in 2013. Since then, Orange Shirt Day has become a chance to keep discussion about residential schools ongoing.

The Victoria event is organized by residential school survivor Eddy Charlie and friend Kristin Spray.

READ ALSO: B.C. Legislature shines spotlight on Orange Shirt Day

“Orange Shirt Day is the day when we all come together to pay tribute to the residential school survivors for the ultimate sacrifices they made while they were in residential school,” Charlie said. “They sacrificed their language, traditions and their identity but they survived so that one day the next generation can regain that lost part of our history (and) honour the survivors today.”

The Moose Hide Campaign – a movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who are standing up against violence towards women and children – has also partnered with Orange Shirt Day event organizers.

The ceremony will be emceed by Bridges for Women Executive Director Victoria Lea Pruden and will consist of a blessing of the land and welcome followed by a flag raising and a moment of silence to honour those who did not survive residential schools. There will also be Indigenous and non-Indigenous performances.

Guest speakers will include Steve Sxwithul’txw, Michele Mundy and BC Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark. They will share their personal experience with residential schools and reconciliation.

Sxwithul’txw is from the Penelakut Tribe just off Vancouver Island. He is now a television producer who grew up in Duncan and is a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School.

Mundy is of Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry and a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation from Alert Bay. She has taught Indigenous stories at Camosun College and is the Indigenous Cultural Safety Facilitator at Island Health.

Mark is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree, Ojibway, French and Scottish and is the first female First Nations MLA of B.C. and the first female First Nations cabinet minister. Her grandparents were forced to go to residential school.

Mayor Lisa Helps will also be joined by other special guests including Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser who will deem Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day in B.C.

READ ALSO: Camosun College shows its colours for Orange Shirt Day

“It is with profound sadness and grief, but also with hope for the future that we once again mark Orange Shirt Day in the City of Victoria,” Helps said. “Orange Shirt Day is an annual opportunity for learning about Canada’s residential school system, hearing the stories of courage and resilience of residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors, and grieving for those who didn’t make it home.”

T-shirts designed by artist Bear Horne, orange blankets and a children’s book by Webstad called The Orange Shirt Story can be purchased for $20 at Big Wheel Burger’s three locations, Caffe Fantastico, Delhi Cafe and Fernwood Yoga Den as well as at the ceremony.

All proceeds go towards supporting the initiative.

The ceremony takes place on Sept. 30 from noon to 3 p.m. in Centennial Square.


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