BROCKVILLE — The Upper Canada District School Board turned orange yesterday as staff and students paid tribute to the suffering Indigenous children endured in the residential school system, to honour the healing journey of the survivors, and commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation.
“Orange Shirt Day provides the opportunity for meaningful discussions about the legacy of residential schools,” said Gail Brant-Terry, K-12 Principal of Teaching and Learning for Indigenous Education. “It reminds us all of the importance of ongoing reconciliation among Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people.”
The day is a way for the UCDSB to help build cultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect of all staff and students, as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Indigenous education is incorporated into the curriculum throughout the year, but today and the days leading up to Orange Shirt Day, schools put more of a focus on this area. Many schools held special activities today, ranging from presentations to crafts.
Orange Shirt Day began in Williams Lake, British Columbia in 2013. Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad inspired the day by relating the tale of having her new orange shirt taken from her on the first day of school at the St. Joseph Mission Residential School. She was just six at the time, and the shirt had been a treasured gift from her grandmother.
The story has since inspired people to host Orange Shirt Days across Canada in solidarity with residential school survivors.