Orange Shirt Day honours Indigenous children who attended residential schools
EDMONTON -- Orange Shirt Day was recognized in Edmonton and across Canada on Wednesday.
Each year on Sept. 30, people wear orange and learn about the legacy and experiences of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in residential schools.
"It's meant to recognize the harm that is done to residential students and the commitment to the principle that every child matters," explained Nadine Mcree, the Indigenous Health Hub director at Alberta Health Services.
Her late grandmother attended a residential school for 13 years. That time was hardly spoken about.
"I wouldn't push to question too much becuase we want to make sure I was being respectful, not wanting to bring up the horrors of it again."
Instead, Mcree says, her grandmother had the ability to find the good in everyone, which her granddaugther tries to do in her legacy.
In the Elk Island Public School Division, schools hosted traditional dances and wrote messages of encouragement.
"They really see it really clearly," the division's First Nations, Métis and Inuit advisor, Jeremy Albert, said.
"They see it very black and white, right and wrong. And they have a lot of empathy towards students who attended the schools."
He helps incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum, including how languages and cultures survived residential schools.
He considers it an important part of Indigenous identities and history -- and foundational to his students being the agent of change.
"If they can go home and educate their parents, their family members, their community, that's great. But I really have a lot of hope in our kids that this will be normal for them."
The colour orange pays tribute to a piece of clothing one First Nations girl in British Columbia had taken away from her on her first day at a residential school in 1973.
Legislation was introduced in House of Commons on Tuesday calling for Sept. 30 to be a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for all federally-regulated workers.
Creating such a statutory holiday was one of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Liberal government introduced similar legislation in February 2019 but the bill died in the Senate when the last federal election was called.
The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.
With files from the Canadian Press.