If you haven’t heard already, this coming Monday, September 30th is Orange Shirt Day. Officially proclaimed by School District No. 27 as well as municipalities and the regional district, Orange Shirt Day will be celebrated for the first time this year, recognizing the legacy of residential schools in Canada. In our area, we are also recognizing the legacy of St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in particular.
According to Angie Mindus, Acting Editor at the Williams Lake Tribune, “the real inspiration behind Orange Shirt Day comes from Dog Creek band member Phyllis Webstad, who shared her painful experience of feeling she didn’t matter at St. Joseph’s Residential School. Through tears, Webstad shared that moving story of having her new orange shirt bought by her grandmother taken from her as a six-year-old attending the Mission, while the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Williams Lake last spring.”
You can also watch a very short, effective video about Phyllis’s story if you visit this webpage and click on “St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School Stories.” This three-minute video would make for a great conversation starter with our students.
To be effective, Orange Shirt Day obviously can’t just be a one-time event. Like Pink Shirt Day for anti-bullying, if the day means nothing more than the colour of clothes you choose from your closet Monday morning, it will be a useless charade. Rather, I hope it serves as another reminder that we are all equal, and every single person we come across deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It also means that our public behaviour and actions need to parallel how we speak about others behind closed doors. Therein lies the bigger challenge.
I hope many of you are able to find an orange shirt to wear or “Every Child Matters” button on Monday. More importantly, I challenge you to live your life in such a way that shows you believe that the message on your button is true.