Sept. 30 will be marked as a day of commemoration for the Indigenous children forced into residential schools, the B.C. government announced on Tuesday (Aug. 3).
In a news release, the province said that while usually Sept. 30 is marked with Orange Shirt Day each year, the events of the past two months have led the province to expand the day.
“Over the last two months Canadians have been coming to terms with what survivors of residential schools have always known. Indigenous peoples are bringing to light the true history of this country and the atrocities of the residential school system,” Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Ranking and Finance Minister Selina Robinson said in a joint statement.
Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis Webstad, who is Northern Secwpemc from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, and attended a residential school as a child. On her first day, the residential school took away Webstad’s brand new orange shirt.
“The color 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. All of us little children were crying and no one cared,” Webstad said in a statement on the Orange Shirt Day website.
In June, the federal government declared that Sept. 30 would become a new annual statutory day to commemorate the history and ongoing trauma caused by residential schools. That move came after 215 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops residential school. Since then, more than a thousand other graves have been discovered at former residential schools in Canada, including more in the B.C. Kootenays and on Vancouver Island.