Twelve-year-old Haley Paetkau has raised more than $10,000 for Indigenous children in the past three years, most recently by selling Orange Shirt Day t-shirts she designed herself.
So when she found out an American-based website was selling her exact design online, she was angry and hurt.
“The money isn’t even going to where it should be going they’re using it for personal profit and it’s appalling they would use my design,” she said.
The orange shirt is more than just a cause for her Haley — it’s personal. The design is based off her late grandmother’s Cowichan sweater and Haley’s own father is a residential school survivor.
“So when your daughter, who’s a 12-year-old, wants to do something for a good cause for her people and you have people compromising and taking advantage of that it’s pretty disgusting,” said Steve Sxwithul’txw, Haley’s dad and a Kuper Island residential school survivor.
Victoria Orange Shirt day organizers Eddy Charlie and Kristin Spray say they’ve found their shirt design, created by Bear Horne, being sold on up to seven websites so far. They say it all started shortly after news broke about the remains of 215 children being discovered at the site of the former Kamloops residential school.
“It really hurt us quite bad and we were utterly shocked, we didn’t know what to say,” said Charlie, a Kuper Island residential school survivor.
The pair used the proceeds from their shirt sales to raise awareness about the impacts of residential schools. They say they have lodged online complaints and consulted experts on copyright law but it’s an uphill battle.
“We wrote to them and asked them to stop using our designs and they moved to another website,” Charlie said.
The latest website featuring both designs tells CHEK News all copyright claims are taken seriously, and Charlie and Spray’s orange shirt design is now under review.
The pair are urging people to do some research before buying any orange shirt.
“It’s best to talk to the people where you’re buying the shirts and ask them where the money is going to,” said Charlie.
Sxwithul’txw is appealing to the companies to do the right thing.
“My hope is that they have some good will and a nice gesture and say hey, haven’t we made enough dollars off the backs of our people and let’s just take that website down or take those shirts down and show some compassion for the First Nations People of Canada,” he said.
So far Haley Paetkau’s fundraiser has helped buy sports uniforms and books for Indigenous children on the island, and she intends to keep going. Her shirts come available each fall before Orange Shirt Day.