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National Day for Truth & Reconciliation / Orange Shirt Day

September 30th marks the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.

On this occasion, we remember and honour the Indigenous children who were taken away to residential schools and never came home, the children who survived, and all of their families and loved ones.

We reflect on what happened to Phyllis Webstad – from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation. On her first day at a residential school, the orange shirt her grandmother gifted her was taken away – and never returned.

Phyllis’ story has come to represent the experience of thousands of Indigenous children who were taken from their families, stripped of their culture, and treated with brutal disregard.

According to official documentation, 3,213 children died in residential schools – but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates the number to be much greater.

In June 2021, the remains of 215 children from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations were uncovered at the former Kamloops, BC Indian Residential School. Since then, over 1,200 unmarked graves have been discovered at other residential school sites – with the possibility of more to be found.

The personal and intergenerational trauma of the children, families and communities subjected to the Canadian residential school system continues to this day.

In acknowledging the tragic legacy of residential schools, we also reaffirm our commitment to meaningful allyship with Indigenous communities and to the ongoing process of healing and reconciliation.

Keith Hambly