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Every child matters – at every age

June 8th, 2021

A groundswell of grief and purpose has arisen at the recent news that the bodies of 215 children have been found buried on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops BC. It is projected that similar discoveries will be made across the country. In honour of those children and those who survived, people have been erecting spontaneous memorials of teddy bears and flowers, and, as at Points West Living Lloydminster, wearing orange.

Wearing orange to show support

“The Employee Care Partners here at PWL Lloydminster got together and said, ‘We need to support this cause as a community,’ and we all wore a orange shirt this week to show support,” says General Manager Sarah Walker.

Resident-survivor cried at news

“We have a resident in our community that attended a residential school in Alberta. When I spoke to her about the discovery in Kamloops, she said that she cried and cried when she heard the news. She remembers how hard it was when she was a student at 6 years old, and the abuse she endured.”

“We wore orange not only to support the 215 lost lives,” adds Sarah, “but also for our residents and their families who are affected by this.”

Why orange?

The practice of wearing orange shirts to promote awareness and educate people about the residential school experience began at a reunion of residential school survivors in Williams Lake, BC in 2013. It was there that Phyllis Jack Webstad shared the story of her first day at residential school as a six-year-old. She was wearing a new orange shirt her grandmother had purchased for the occasion, and when she arrived, she was stripped of her clothes and the shirt was never returned. That shirt has come to symbolize the identity and culture that the residential school system stripped from generations of indigenous young people and their families.

New national holiday

What started primarily as an education initiative, Orange Shirt Day is now a national movement to recognize and redress a century of cultural genocide against indigenous peoples. With the shocking discovery at the former school in Kamloops, the Government of Canada has fast-tracked the approval of a new national holiday. The ‘National Day for Truth and Reconciliation’, is to be held every year on September 30.

Photo: Employee care partners at PWL Lloydminster honour the lost children and current survivors of the former ‘Indian residential school system’ in Canada. GM Sarah Walker is standing fourth from the left.

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