Students begin their walk around town with the “Every Child Matters” banner Monday, Sept. 30. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Orange Shirt Day observed in Quesnel

Hundreds of students and First Nations elders remember the dark legacy of residential schools

Hundreds of school children gathered in LeBourdais Park to observe Orange Shirt Day on Monday (Sept. 30).

Elders from local First Nations bands, including Lhtako Dene, Nazko and Kluskus, gave moving speeches outlining the horrors they experienced due to being taken from their families and placed into residential schools.

Some of the children present would have a difficult time imagining such suffering, but they paid close attention regardless.

A minute of silence followed the speeches and then a line of students, Elders and Quesnel residents took a walk around the town to draw recognition for the day.

READ MORE: Hundreds gather in LeBourdais Park for Orange Shirt Day

Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, issued the following statement, as well:

“On Sept. 30, we join together to raise awareness of the terrible effects of the residential school system and the resulting intergenerational trauma. For more than 100 years, children were taken from their parents, subjected to abuse and made to feel ashamed of their culture.

“By participating in Orange Shirt Day each year, we act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action to redress the colonial legacy of residential schools. More than that, to honour survivors we must all commit to a future grounded in meaningful reconciliation — where healing is supported, rights are respected and Indigenous languages and cultures are able to thrive.

“That is why our government is responding to Article 43, which calls on governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Legislation will be introduced this fall to bring the Province’s laws into harmony with the Declaration.

“This is a day to acknowledge the survivors of residential schools and to stand with them and their families.

“Orange Shirt Day was created by Phyllis Webstad. In 1973, at age six, she was sent to St. Joseph Mission residential school in Williams Lake, excited to wear a brand-new orange shirt. Her shirt was taken from her and she never saw it again. This emotionally damaging act made her feel as if she did not matter.

“Phyllis shared her story in 2013, using the symbolism of the orange shirt and the words ‘Every Child Matters’ in her awareness campaign.

“Let’s give those who have the courage to tell their stories a safe space to share them and an opportunity to reclaim their identities.”

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