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Orange Shirt Day

BCTF EC Orange Shirt DaySeptember 30 is Orange Shirt Day, a day to remember the injustices suffered by over 150,000 First Nations children at residential schools across Canada. Members of the BCTF Executive Committee donned their orange shirts to demonstrate their support for the day and their commitment to education for reconciliation.

The commemorative day was sparked in 2013 by Phyllis Jack Webstad, a Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nation Elder in Williams Lake. Back in 1973, six-year-old Phyllis was excited to wear the brand-new orange shirt her Grandma bought for her first day of school. But here’s what happened:

“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!” Phyllis recalled in a post on the Orange Shirt Day website. “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.”

Since Phyllis first shared her story, Orange Shirt Day has spread across Canada and has been incorporated into curriculum and school events annually.

Senator Murray Sinclair, former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told the CBC that he hopes “that Orange Shirt Day will encourage teachers to remember every student who crosses their doorstep is someone’s child, and that every child matters.”

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