September 27, 2019
Hundreds of students from Edmonton packed City Hall this afternoon to take part in the city’s fourth Orange Shirt Day event. The day has become an opportunity to share the history and impacts of residential schools and serves as a reminder that schools are respectful, inclusive spaces for all students.
“Orange Shirt Day sets out to encourage youth in keeping schools a safe and welcoming space for all,” said Councillor Mike Nickel. “Part of that requires learning and understanding the lessons from our past to educate ourselves and generations to come.”
Orange Shirt Day was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad whose new orange shirt was taken away on her first day at a residential school in Williams Lake, BC in 1973. The program has expanded across Canada to raise awareness about bullying and racism.
Dr. Lana Whiskeyjack, an intergenerational survivor, spoke on the intergenerational impacts of residential school survivors and the importance of reconnecting to the spirit of nehiyawewin (Cree language).
“The Orange Shirt Project,” an exhibition by Humans of Edmonton Experience, was unveiled at City Hall. It includes personal photos and stories of residential school survivors.
“Each year, we see increased participation levels in the Orange Shirt Program Logo Contest, which is just one of the ways that we can keep the conversation going to grow our understanding, recognize the harms done to residential school students and to demonstrate commitment to participate in work of reconciliation,” said Leslie Ronaldson, Executive Director at Safe and Caring. “Safe and Caring Schools & Communities is proud to support the Orange Shirt Program throughout the year.”
This year’s winning Orange Shirt logo was designed by Farrah Ochiese, a grade 11 student at Jasper Place High School. Farrah’s family originates from Driftpile First Nation in Treaty 8 territory. She describes her artwork as “a mother trying to keep her children safe, under her wing, within her.”
This Orange Shirt Day event is led through partnership between The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities, Edmonton Public School Board, Edmonton Catholic School District, MacEwan University and the City of Edmonton.