Orange Shirt Day officially began on September 30, 2013 at a school in British Columbia and has since spread across Canada. It was started by a remarkable and courageous woman, Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor.
As a young child, Phyllis was given by her grandmother a new orange shirt to wear on her first day of residential school. Immediately after arriving in at school, Phyllis was stripped of her new orange shirt by the Mission Oblates.
Phyllis’ story is the story of the many Métis, Inuit and First Nations children who were sent to residential schools. This is not a proud moment in our nation’s history.
In 2008, our government offered an official apology and recently, we announced the designation of the residential school in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba and the site of the Shubenacadie residential school in Nova Scotia as national historic sites.
I made a commitment when I took the Personal Pledge of Reconciliation to learn about the history, the culture and the challenges faced by our Indigenous People. Today, on Orange Shirt Day, I am renewing my commitment.
Today, I encourage all Canadians to watch this video to learn more about Phyllis’ story. I also encourage all Canadians to show their support and commitment to reconciliation through a deeper understanding of the devastating impacts of these residential schools. We can do this through learning, understanding, and by wearing an orange shirt every September 30.
Let’s make sure that every child matters.