“Every Child Matters” during Orange Shirt Day

On September 30 each year, thousands of people gather across Canada to remember the victims and survivors of residential schools as part of Orange Shirt Day.

The Preeceville School staff and student representative council paid tribute to the day on September 28 when they wore orange shirts.

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"This is an opportunity for First Nations, local government, school and communities to come together in a spirit of reconciliation and hope for generations of children to come," said Doug King, principal of Preeceville School.

The annual event is a chance to have meaningful discussion about the effects of Residential Schools and the legacy they have left behind, according to the Orange Shirt Society’s official website.

The event was inspired by the story of Phyllis Webstad, who wore a bright orange shirt on her first day attending a B.C. residential school in 1973, but had the shirt stripped from her, never to be seen again.

“The colour orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing,” Webstad wrote on the Orange Shirt Day website. “All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Orange Shirt Day is marked at a time of year when children were taken from their homes and sent to these schools. It is also a chance to focus on anti-racism and anti-bullying efforts as the school year kicks off, the organization said.

The Orange Shirt Society is a non-profit organization with its home in Williams Lake, BC where Orange Shirt Day began in 2013. The organization has both Indigenous and non-Indigenous board members.

According to the website, the purpose of the society is as follows:

To support Indian Residential School Reconciliation, to create awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools through Orange Shirt Society activities and to create awareness of the concept of "Every Child Matters."