Phyllis Webstad, a member of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation in British Columbia, was forced to attend St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, as her relatives before her. She entered the school in 1973 wearing a brand new orange shirt which was immediately confiscated by the staff and replaced with a uniform. She never saw the shirt again, and began to associate the colour with the traumatic experiences in the school and the loss of language and cultural identity she suffered. In 2013, Webstad transformed her negative experiences into something positive by creating a Nationally recognized Orange Shirt Day. Celebrated annually on September 30th, this day acknowledges the residential school system in Canada, honours those who survived, and remembers those who did not. It is a day to demonstrate, by wearing orange, that all students matter. By wearing orange on Monday, September 30th, we have an opportunity to bring awareness to the history of Residential Schools and to stand up against other injustices that may impact our children/students. The phrase, “Every Child Matters” reminds us that children are so very important and integral to our communities—they are our future.
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