VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It was founded to promote awareness about the deplorable treatment of Indigenous children taken from their families and homes and forced into Residential Schools.
And now, Orange Shirt Day is officially being recognized by the provincial government of British Columbia.
It stems from the calls to action that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“We were requested to, last year, consider doing a provincial proclamation of the day,” B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser explains. “Which we will be doing [Sunday] in Victoria.”
It’s all a part of reconciliation, and marks a dark and troubling time in Canada’s history.
“It’s a testament to the resilience of First Nations in B.C. and in Canada. This was just an incredibly dark part of our history, and it’s relatively recent. The last school, it wasn’t closed until 1984.”
Fraser says it was a concerted effort by the church and state to strip “very identity and culture of First Nations people by forcibly removing kids from their homes and taking them away.”
The idea for Orange Shirt Day is based off the story of Phyllis Webstad, who was taken to Residential School at the age of six.
“The orange shirt she wore on her first day of school was given to her by her grandmother. It was stripped from her upon her arrival at school, and she never saw it again.”
Years later, her Webstad’s shirt would become a symbol for that dark period, Fraser explains.
The first day was back in 2013, and events have since been held all across the country.
Doing what he can in the name of reconciliation is part of Fraser’s mandate, he tells NEWS 1130.
“Not just my ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, but all the ministries received instructions to utilize the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action, to make sure that we are in keeping with the spirit, intent, and words of both of those important pieces of work,” he says.
He hopes efforts will help rebuilt the Crown-Indigenous relationship, which Fraser says should be based on respect, recognition, and partnerships — not conflict.
-With files from Taran Parmar